This morning, I listened to a podcast about Maya Shankar, an exceptional violinist who studied under Itzhak Perlman before a hand injury forced her to shift course. She finished her doctorate in Cognitive Neuroscience and now works at the intersection of behavioral science and policy research to drive meaningful change. You can find out more about her here. She pivoted. She figured out her path forward. Pivoting is something we’re all learning to do and IIEX, like other formerly live events, is no exception. Like Maya, they’ve found avenues through the obstacles and persevered. Here’s the roundup of the IIEX North America virtual conference:
- Jamin Brazil interviews Jon Derome, the GM of Customer and Market Research (CMR) for Microsoft, about Jon’s journey to GM. After Reed Cundiff moved to Kantar, the GM role opened and Jon, a 10-year veteran of the department, wrote an 8-page application to CVP of Brand, Global Advertising, and Research, Kathleen Hall for the role. Jon understood his role would be to make good decisions rather than quick decisions, and his decision to embark on a listening period shows his deep ability to reflect. He conducted 100+ one-on-one sessions and three surveys (among the CMR organization, the stakeholders they serve, and vendors) and his key takeaways were that 1) they needed to reorganize away from the former deep concentration by product (Xbox, Azure), because that was too siloed for Microsoft’s next epoch of growth, and 2) they needed to shift from tight/closed relationships between siloed stakeholder-researcher groups to visible/transparent relationships and collaborations within the CMR team and to the stakeholders and vendors. The CMR team felt very visible to their individual silo’s stakeholders but invisible to one another. While Jon humbly admits they are ‘still learning’ and ‘have had some failures and some successes,’ his vision for the group is to practice in a way that leaves spaces to talk and invite all voices in the team (quiet and loud) to the conversation.
- Roben Allong asked “What is culture?” Allong, CEO of Lightbeam Communications, described how she mines cultural insights with a six-step process to help brands know what, where, and how to look for cultural codes and artifacts that impact the behaviors, attitudes, perceptions, and choices of today’s consumer. She talked about the steps of cultural consciousness, unbiased curiosity, informed observation, structured exploration, cultural insight discovery, and the insight validation stage. In one case example, Allong and her team tested some Haitian Creole print ads and discovered that younger people use Haitian Creole as spoken dialect not written. The marketing materials would have most impact as audio/radio ads vs print. She went on to talk about rising cultural trends such as digital empowerment, inclusivity of all voices, gender fluidity, green shaming (shaming brands that have acted environmentally irresponsibly), virtual living (reinventing behavior and social constructs) and AI integration.
- The Power of Podcasts to Talk Culture. During IIEX, Sima Vasa’s Data Gurus, Jamin Brazil’s Happy Market Research Podcast and Priscilla McKinney’s Ponderings from the Perch podcasts were at the same time slot. I chose by putting 3 numbers into my cup and that’s how I clicked into Priscilla’s. But I regularly listen to all three of their podcasts and I highly recommend them all!
During Priscilla’s session, she spoke with Bianca Prior (BET) and Chrystal Day (YouTube). They had tremendous trust and rapport with one another as they spoke about culture and our unique opportunity within the #mrx industry. Bianca talked about getting involved at any level you can.
Later in the IIEX program, the MR Podcast Award of the Year was revealed. 16 podcasts were nominated and the awards were granted. I am so excited to listen to the podcasts I haven’t listened to yet, as I am one of those “all media” people.
- Jessica Sage, Ashley LeBlanc, Priscilla McKinney and Michelle Andre co-hosted the evening Women in Research (WiRe) sponsored event where 77 of us participated, listened, laughed, and text chatted as we answered famous women in history trivia questions. In a non-COVID-19 world, we would have been at WiRe enjoying some appetizers and a drink in a very energetic room with industry colleagues, but it was great to keep a sense of connection among a close-knit community. WiRe is organized into regional chapters and both women and men can participate. I highly recommend getting involved for the seminars, the trivia, and the networking!
I’ve now been to over a dozen virtual events and they keep getting better. While I look forward to getting back to seeing everyone in person, I’m going to continue to put on my best Zoom shirt and lean all the way in.
Julie Kurd is the VP, Business Development at CMB.