Jamin Brazil is the CEO and co-founder of HubUx, a technology company focused on user experience and market research insights software; and the host of the Happy Market Research Podcast, the number one market research podcast, bringing you interviews with insights professionals from LinkedIn, GoDaddy, General Mills, and many more.
This episode is in collaboration with IIEX’s podcast series. Our guests today are Laura Levy and Emma Varjo.  Laura is a human factors psychologist, specializing in how people interact and engage with technology. She works at the Institute for People and Technology and she is Research Director of Gaming and Esports Applied Research at Georgia Tech, where she specializes in esports research, games user research, AR/VR, and human-computer interactions.  Laura received her BS in Zoology from the University of Florida, a MS in Biology and a MS in Psychology from Georgia Tech and is expected to earn her PhD in Psychology this Spring 2021 from Georgia Tech. Emma Varjo is the UX Lead for Frozenbyte Oy.  Frozenbyte was founded in 2001 and headquartered in Helsinki, Finland. Now, with over 110 employees, Frozenbyte has 11 published titles. Most recently:  Boreal Blade which is a team-based melee fighting game with a focus on player vs player combat,  The Trine series which is a best-selling game in the adventure genre And, Frozenbyte is scheduled to launch Starbase, a space MMO with a fully destructible and infinitely expanding universe, focused on building and designing spaceships and stations, exploration, resource gathering, crafting, trading, and combat. Prior to joining Frozenbyte, Emma has served as both a software developer and software designer.  Find Laura Online: Website: www.lauralevy.science LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lauramlevy  Twitter: https://twitter.com/sciencelaura Find Emma Online: Website: https://www.frozenbyte.com  LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/emmavarjo  Twitter: https://twitter.com/eevarjo  Find Jamin Online: Email: jamin@happymr.com  LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/jaminbrazil Twitter: www.twitter.com/jaminbrazil  Find Us Online:  Twitter: www.twitter.com/happymrxp  LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/happymarketresearch  Facebook: www.facebook.com/happymrxp  Website: www.happymr.com  Watch this episode: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L5FqExXM4rg Music:  “Clap Along” by Auditionauti: https://audionautix.com 
My guest today is Jared Feldman, CEO & Founder of Canvs AI. Founded in 2010, Canvs is a software as a service company focused on measuring emotion.  Jared is an experienced entrepreneur and was named in Forbes’s prestigious 30 under 30 which identifies top entrepreneurs under 30 years of age.  Find Jared Online: Website: https://www.canvs.ai  LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jaredfeldman  Find Jamin Online: Email: jamin@happymr.com  LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/jaminbrazil Twitter: www.twitter.com/jaminbrazil  Find Us Online:  Twitter: www.twitter.com/happymrxp  LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/happymarketresearch  Facebook: www.facebook.com/happymrxp  Website: www.happymr.com  Music:  “Clap Along” by Auditionauti: https://audionautix.com  Epidemic Sound: https://www.epidemicsound.com/  This Episode is Sponsored by: 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. [00:00:00] Jamin Brazil: Hi, everybody. I’m Jamin Brazil, and you’re listening to the Happy Market Research Podcast. My guest today is Jared Feldman, CEO and Founder of Canvs AI. That’s C-A-N-V-S AI. Foundered in 2010, Canvs is a software as a service company focused on measuring emotion. Jared is an experienced entrepreneur and has been named Forbes prestigious 30 Under 30, which identifies top entrepreneurs under 30 years of age. Jared, thanks so much for joining me on the Happy Market Research Podcast today. [00:00:38] Jared Feldman: Thanks so much for having me, Jamin. It’s a pleasure to be here. [00:00:43] Jamin Brazil: Today, almost everyone has taken surveys. But did you know that SurveyMonkey offers complete solutions for professional 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 research feedback with seven 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 idea from your target market in a presentation ready format, and by the way, in as little as an hour. For more information on SurveyMonkey’s market research solutions, please visit surveymonkey.com/market-research. That’s surveymonkey.com/market-research. Support for the Happy Market Research Podcast comes from Fuel Cycle. This episode is brought to you by Fuel Cycle Ignition. Ignition is the agile insights platform that enables leaders and their teams to improve product, brand, customer, and employee experiences with no insights experience required. With FC live virtual focus groups and interviews and ad effectiveness 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, Gohart, and more. To learn how Ignition can take your research to the next level, visit fuelcycle.com. Yeah, no, it’s an absolute honor. I’d like to start with some context for the audience, and myself even. Maybe you could tell us a little bit about your parents and how they informed what you’re doing today. [00:02:40] Jared Feldman: Yeah. It’s an interesting question. So I grew up with both of my parents, very blessed. My mother was a nurse, my father was a businessman. One of the things that was unique about our childhood though is that we moved around cross multiple states very early. I lived in five or six different states before I was 11. And the core family unit, my parents and my sister, had to get used to change very quickly and had to build a, sort of resilience, if you will, early on. I know that part of my influence in sort of wanting to start a company more broadly came from my parents and also my grandparents and uncles who were always very encouraging of me exploring things, trying new ways to solve problems, and just really being insatiably curious about the world and pulling threads. And it – I was always a curious child. I was always encouraged to try new things. And, so, the other sort of element of my upbringing that I think influenced me in a major way is that I have a lot of artists in my family. My grandmother is a painter. My grandfather is a musician. I have filmmakers and musicians and writers. And I grew up playing the piano and the drums and lots of different musical instruments. And I ended up going to college, actually, for music at NYU. And the fascination with it was always around emotion, I realized, that really the point of music, the point of art more largely is to elicit an emotional response. And that always became fascinating to me as just a highly sensitive individual to understand what causes people to feel things, and how do you feel what they’re feeling? And that, the concept of empathy and that idea was really grounded in my study of music and my evolution as a creator there. And, then, it wasn’t until college where I started to understand more around the business opportunities with emotion. And that, really, kind of the whole psychological underpinning of all consumer behavior is actually how we feel, because all of our decisions that we’re making on a daily basis are driven by our subconscious. And, so, it just became a really fascinating thread to pull, to understand how people were feeling and why and to, ultimately, sort of enable more empathy in the world. And that really stemmed from a childhood where I was asked to change context all the time, was encouraged to pull threads and endlessly dig into new problems and propose new solutions. And, then, this sort of overlapping Venn diagram with music and just this fascinating with, how do you not only understand how people feel, but create context where in which they’ll feel those things, and thereby motivate some sort of behavior. That’s really my context stepping into the research world is – And how my parents and family upbringing influenced that. [00:05:28] Jamin Brazil: It’s interesting how you have, I think it was Steve Jobs, right, and his famous dots. You don’t know how the dots connect, but when you look backwards, you see it so clearly. And it’s interesting how the upbringing, where you had fast friends on a regular basis, I imagine those – That kind of a context would create the need for you to quickly access the emotional status of people and really over index on the EQ side of things so that you could fit into the – Because moving is hard. Moving states is really hard. It’s funny how now, all of a sudden, you started a successful emotions management company. Hilarious. [00:06:08] Jared Feldman: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it did highlight for me, naturally, the value of EQ and just understanding intrinsically how emotions changes our behavior, it changes how we feel about a situation and our perspective, and then ultimately what we do about it. And, unfortunately, in the business world, folks really don’t care how you feel, they care what you do because of it. And, so, there then became this interesting opportunity to figure out how to connect dots, sort of as you mentioned looking backwards, how do we understand how people are feeling, and then, ultimately, what decisions those things drive. And, for me, I became very interested in people and understanding sort of complex emotional systems and was exposed to a lot of different people in different regions. The friends I made in Virginia versus New Jersey versus Texas versus Connecticut versus New York, got a sort of a good sample size, so to speak, and was exposed to a lot of different dimensions of humanity. And this is really the underpinning, is the emotion. [00:07:12] Jamin Brazil: In fact, I just had an interview with the Head of Customer Experience at Disney Parks. And in that interview, she talks about how important it is to connect at an emotional level, but then also, in the US, how diverse we are from our points of view. And, so, just going to the sample size that you just – Or the sample frames that you just mentioned, you get a lot of differing opinions based on a lot – All sorts of stuff. And because we as Americans have such a diverse point of view, it becomes even more important that companies are able to measure emotion. And getting that information quickly is, I mean, now it’s the speed of light, right? So that you can make correct, informed decisions. [00:07:58] Jared Feldman: It’s a really great point that emotion is transient by nature, it’s impermanent. And its relevance has a deadline. It’s important right now, but it declines in value over time because, well, it’s likely to change. And one of the things you just touched on implicitly is this idea of quantification of emotion. Like, how do we actually quantify and put a percentage – What percentage of folks are feeling this way? And, then, how is that trend moving? Is it – Are more people beginning to feel this or less? And it’s a really key thing in this day and age, especially as our expressions of emotion has become so – It’s like everybody has a voice. Expression is totally democratized. And just in the snap of a finger, you can have new waves and new sort of types of emotion that are really driving all sorts of really powerful movements. And one of the quotes that I heard from Adam Bain back when he was at Twitter was that the entire business, the monetization model of Twitter is to monetize emotion. It’s a quote that I’m paraphrasing slightly, but it’s a quote he made in a Wall Street Journal article. And it really struck me because, also, Twitter was the very first dataset that we started to look at, was all the public and unsolicited tweets about content and integrations and advertising and trying to understand people’s emotions. And when he framed it that way, it’s almost all monetization is the monetization of emotions, if you think about it. And it becomes really important to not just sort of anecdotally understand using gut or art or previous kind of methods that aren’t necessarily scientific. You now have this ability to be able to at scale and in real time quantify how populations are feeling. Then it becomes really exciting as the researcher, as a CX professional, like, “What do I get to do about this? What does this mean for me? How do I make more empathetic decisions? And that, how does that feedback cycle accelerate such that we’re able to move and stay current with culture?” And all those things open up with things like Twitter at our disposal in today’s day and age. [00:10:01] Jamin Brazil: I think it was Jeffery Moore’s book, Crossing the Chasm, where he talked about the only asset a company really has is the relationships with its customers. It’s the products or the services are really just a euphemism for wanting – People wanting to do business with you. And I think that’s – What you’re saying is exactly right. That just hits me right in the bull’s eye, which is we have to be – At any kind of a company, even if it’s a B2B, emotion plays a big part in the overall transaction. And that customer relationship is really the – Is the centerpiece or is the core asset. And I think it’s – I would like to unpack a little bit, give us some context for Canvs AI. How are you guys enabling companies to assess and diagnose their customers or constituent’s emotional states? [00:10:47] Jared Feldman: Sure. So Canvs’s mission more broadly is to make the world more empathetic. And we do this through patented AI and machine learning technology that ingests short form text, public unsolicited dialogues happening on Twitter and Facebook and YouTube, or private and solicited, for example, open ended survey responses that can at scale understand and detect what we term unnatural language. This is kind of the crux of the technology that we’ve developed, is we know how to deal with all the strange ways in which people express themselves in the written form. Unfortunately, none of us speak properly, certainly on the Internet, certainly when we’re having conversations quickly and in rapid fire fashion. And, so, what the technology does is it’s really good at dealing with modern dialogue, with strange phrases and misspellings and emojis and all that just – Especially Millennials and Gen Z. It’s the first system of its kind that really kind with precision understand how people feel. So, Jamin, you say, “That ad, it was freaking hilarious.” And I say, “That ad, with just four crying laughing eye emojis.” And you and I are basically saying the same thing. And you use some strange language and maybe kind of hyphened something or misspelled something, and I didn’t actually explicitly say anything, really. I just noted the ad and used some non-textual cues like emojis. And the exercise for a researcher is to understand that those pieces of text share a common idea. And, so, what we’ve done is we’ve developed a framework where we have 42 core emotions that represent the most common ways that people talk about their feelings. And this is – Was done by studying tens of billions of signals on social media. This is a little bit of a different path that most research companies take, where we started with social data, and it’s what trained our systems to be really, really competent at modern dialogue and all the crazy ways in which people express themselves. And, so, we started very verticalized with using social data and creating a feedback loop largely for the media, entertainment, and advertising industry. It’s the number one spender on research in America. And it turned out that every single network on the planet knew their operational data cold. They knew exactly how many viewers watched their show the night before, but they didn’t know why it was happening. And, in fact, it would end up taking days and running a survey or a focus group or doing a lot of manual digging. And, so, Canvs developed a standardized measurement of every single TV show. And TV is really just sort of a pronoun for content right now. So it’s whether it’s a linear show on NBC or an OTT program on Netflix, Canvs is quantifying how passionate the audience is, how funny the comedy was or how boring, how much love there was for the main character or actress, etc. And doing it at scale very day in a syndicated fashion, so that Netflix can benchmark their OTT programs against Hulu and vice versa. And that’s where we started in using social data. And that expanded to measuring campaigns on social and things of the sort. And what we’ve been really focused on over the last 18 months is the application of this technology in open ended survey responses. And this has been a huge need state that we’ve identified that almost every researcher and every CX professional will nod their head and tell you how important open ended survey responses are, but when you ask them, “How do you use it?” They tend to roll their eyes. It’s such a frustrating experience for them because open ends are insanely valuable, but they’re just impossible to quantify without hand coding. And most researchers, most of the time, are spending hours in Excel or an equivalent, trying to hand code open ended survey responses to figure out, here’s what Jamin said. Here’s what Jared said. What are the common ideas and responses? And, so, we built a platform that enables anyone to take their survey results from any provider and just run them through the Canvs engine, and it will in a few seconds replace the hand coding. It basically organizes the conversation, weeds out spam, it tells you how people are feeling, it helps you understand the main topics of discussion in a very flexible, easy to use interface that lends confidence to the researcher. And we found that our partners in media, like Netflix and Disney, love it, but also outside of media in gaming and CPG, and we’re learning that there’s a really big opportunity to help researchers everywhere sort of get out of the weeds and really focus on storytelling. And, so, that’s our focus. That’s all that we do, is we focus on taking people’s voices that they give to you on Twitter or that they feed to you via a survey response, and try to help you understand how they’re feeling and why. And that, ultimately, we believe should help enable more empathetic decision making by organizations. [00:15:55] Jamin Brazil: Me being a survey guy, is a survey is really just a conversation at scale. So if I own a corner market or, let’s say a small restaurant, family owned restaurant, I don’t need to do an NPS survey because I’m talking to my customers probably every day. I’m seeing what’s happening on the floor. However, if I open up multiple locations, now it’s impossible for me to keep my finger on the pulse of the consumer. And, so, now it’s required of me that I start doing some sort of a mechanism to gauge how well my customers are connecting. And that’s why we, traditionally, have used surveys, because open ended questions are just too complex and take too much time for me to analyze. The really interesting thing about what you’re doing is, in a lot of ways, it could become a better survey. [00:16:40] Jared Feldman: Yep. All of a sudden, Jamin, you can ask less closed ended questions. You can hear more of the customer’s voice. Instead of saying, “Do you agree or disagree that the service was OK? Do you agree or disagree that you like this character?” However you would sort of end up arriving, and, “What are your favorite things about this? What are your least favorite things about it?” Just, like, “How was your experience?” And letting people give you their honest truths. And enabling researchers with that technology is awesome because then – It’s like a superpower. Because, before, in order to get that sort of unvarnished truth, you would have to have very non-scalable, one-on-one conversations. But as you said, if the survey is this conversation at scale, then the conversation should scale. And that’s really what the technology is trying to accomplish. [00:17:25] Jamin Brazil: Yeah. I mean, that’s exactly it. When I look forward to the coming consumer insights evolution, it’s funny because surveys now are everywhere. And, at the same time, as that information has been – Or capability has been largely democratized by companies like SurveyMonkey and others, who I like very much as a sponsor of the show, but now anybody can do a survey. The problem is that just because you can do a survey, maybe you shouldn’t do a survey. The example I give is just because I have a scalpel, maybe I probably shouldn’t just go do a surgery, right? [00:18:01] Jared Feldman: Yes, please. [00:18:02] Jamin Brazil: And, so – Yeah. So how is Canvs AI qualifying the emotional score that you’re attributing to the brand or to the participant? And the other thing I’m really interested in is, how are you dealing with any sort of biases that may be embedded in the algorithms? [00:18:24] Jared Feldman: Both of those are very important questions. So let’s talk about quantifying emotion and how you do that. Because the exercise is, well, first, one, Canvs doesn’t actually quantify emotion. We quantify the expression of emotion. And as part of that, what we’ve developed over the last six years now is, what is – What we believe to be – And it’s hard to sort of prove this, but it’s the world’s largest ontology of language. We have the trillions of expressions that our system is looking for, that, to us, mean that that user is feeling something. And this is – Was painstakingly built by hand, and then supplemented with the machine learning algorithms, and then scaled exponentially over the last couple of years. And in part was designed to update every 24 hours because our founding thesis is that not everyone really has a voice if you can’t understand everybody. And language is just changing so quickly. So the first answer to your question is having a comprehensive understanding of what language people use when they’re expressing something emotional. Now, we talked about the open end semantic problem a little bit, it’s actually not just an emotion problem. The survey problem, by definition, is a question and answer problem. It’s like I have this question and the exercise is, “How can you help the researcher arrive at the answer in as few clicks as possible?” That’s the whole game as we see it. And, so, to that end, there’s additional types of analysis that we need to do, like topical analysis and more theme based analysis, there are classification problems like Jamin and Jared are both people, and so what percentage of folks are talking about people or something else? But, broadly, from an emotion standpoint, which is foundational and is a unique value proposition for candidates, we’re effectively reading the open ends. And we’re looking for clues that this person is feeling something, and then we’re trying to understand why they’re feeling that way, and doing all sorts of qualification around it because, Jamin, I think you’re pretty cool, man. But, also, the weather is cool outside. And the same language, if about something in particular, could mean something totally different. And, so, there’s a lot of sophisticated edge cases that have to be considered as you think about dealing with modern language. But it’s just something that we’ve been focused on wholeheartedly for six years. And this is the recall problem. Basically, if you give me 100 responses and 80 of them have some sort of emotion in it, how good is a system at detecting all 80 of those things, regardless of what the emotions were, but is this person emotional, yes or no? And this is the first KPI. It’s a measure of passion. We call it the reaction rate, basically, how emotionally charged is a group of respondents or a group or a given population? And this is kind of – If you’re doing ad testing, for example, or if you’re trying to pilot a new product or get people’s perspective on something, this is the first order of business, is to get people to feel something. The next order of business is, well, understanding what those feelings are. And this is the precision problem. Basically, once you have an understanding that someone’s feeling something, then you have to categorize it. Is Jamin expression love or is he just saying it’s interesting? Are we laughing here or are we angry or upset or bored? I will say though unequivocally that this is not a sentiment problem. And I’m gonna draw a quick distinction because most researchers have seen green and red dials that say positive or negative scores. And positive and negative is an unequivocally bad way to think about language. Effectively, if you’re really funny character on your sitcom as people are laughing, then that’s really amazing. But if you’re a super serious political candidate and people are laughing, maybe that’s not so good. And, so, we actually encourage our researchers to think about positive negatives, not in the experiential data sense, but instead in the operational data sense. Is this good or bad for my business, or the KPIs, ultimately, that the CFO or the shareholders care about. And that’s what makes it good or bad. Positive and negative is a conclusion. But, so, once we’ve detected an emotion, the next order of operations is to understand how people feel. And, so, we have this framework of 42 core emotions that is the most nuanced framework we know to exist, but you also have this interoperability with more academic framework, so if you want to leverage Paul Eckman’s six core emotions or Robert Plutchik’s eight core emotions with the different degrees of intensity, we’re giving the researcher total control over the technology to decide how they want to classify this. And, so, that’s basically the process. We get a piece of text, we’re figuring out, is there an emotion present? Yes or no. And, then, once it’s present, how can we group it together with other emotions that are very similar, and then provide really clear explanations as to what makes this up, what are examples, and why are they feeling that way? What’s effectively driving it? So that’s how we’re quantifying our emotional score, and it becomes, as opposed to a word cloud which will just tell you generally people said the word funny a lot, we’re attempting to summarize the emotion humor and the millions of ways in which people could be expressing that. And that’s what the system is really good at. Now, you asked a really important question about bias and having bias make its way into algorithms and training set is a huge consideration and important point. One of the things that we’re proud of is how our system’s been trained on public and unsolicited data going back six years. It’s something that makes it unique in its ability to understand Black Twitter and how – Also how politicians speak and how we talk about our favorite programming versus our health concerns and brands. The system’s been trained to cross 26 different categories and has been trained across a very, very wide population of inputs. And it’s through that diversification and just making sure that as we refine the systems, we’re calibrating it to how the population actually looks and the market we’re actually trying to understand. That’s how we ground ourselves in approaching that sort of problem. [00:24:42] Jamin Brazil: It sounds very comprehensive, which is exciting from my vantage point. We’ve seen major companies make big mistakes in the past, not being conscious of the fact that not everybody is a white male or whomever is doing the programming. And, in fact, even recently, one of the top three market research agencies had a global report on the state of COVID as it relates with minority groups. And they incorrectly identified African American as being optimistic through this time, but the framework was not – It was taking into account from a white person’s perspective and not a historical perspective, which blacks historically are seen more – Or voice more optimism, which is really interesting from a cultural perspective, right? I think it’s fascinating how you’re incorporating the diversity in the points of view, especially in context of our world today. [00:25:41] Jared Feldman: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, you raised the important point that this is a massively complex issue, but it’s just as important as it is complex. And, so, it’s just why semantic analysis generally shouldn’t be a box that’s checked or sort of a side project done by one of these platforms. It takes dedicated years of research and understanding to really get underneath the nuances and just the idiosyncratic details of our language and what it means about us when we express it that way. And that’s also – It’s why I made the distinction that we’re not necessarily measuring emotion. We’re not hooked up to people’s brains, per se, this isn’t neurological or physiological in that way, but it is the expression of emotion. And I just – There’s just so much importance in what people are willing to express. And, also, as long as you’re able to dimensionalize it properly. Who is this coming from? What is the history there? And how do we make sure that when we make statements, when we classify things, how do we make sure that this is representative of what they meant and how they felt? [00:26:47] Jamin Brazil: Right. And, I mean, it’s like Monty Python had this – I think it was Monty Python had this funny blog on the 26 ways you can use the word fuck. Pardon. But, I mean, it’s exactly right. I can do a crying emoji, and if you don’t have a context of me or the response to what I’m – Where I’m applying that, then you’re probably gonna misinterpret it or there’s a high probability you will. That’s where it gets super interesting to me. And, so, I could spend forever talking on this topic because I think this is – Not forever, but probably another couple of hours. I would love to have a deeper understanding of the algorithms and how you’re dealing with those issues, but it’s exciting to hear that you are and have been doing that. [00:27:27] Jared Feldman: Yeah, thank you, Jamin. Yeah, it is probably a whole day’s worth of discussion, but there’s lots to unpack there, for sure. [00:27:33] Jamin Brazil: As you look forward, how do you think market research is gonna be different in the next five years? [00:27:38] Jared Feldman: When I think about what’s happening and the changes across enterprises – And we work mostly with large Fortune 1,000 companies, it becomes obvious that the researcher’s role is changing quite a bit with the introduction of new technology. I think it’s clear that researchers broadly, their role will evolve. And it’s not scary, actually. I think it’s a really exciting opportunity. Researchers will become storytellers for the organization. There’s too much time being wasted by researchers being like the PA on a movie set. You know the PA? I don’t think you had a PA in your career – [00:28:12] Jamin Brazil: – Of course I did. [00:28:13] Jared Feldman: But when I was in college, that was my – Yeah. That was my part time job. And you’re sweeping the floors and you’re arranging the coffee cups just right. And you’re making sure that the pads and the papers are there and the chair’s set up for the director and all the things are plugged in. And you’re just in the weeds, trying to figure out – Making sure that everyone else can do their job right. And I really like this concept of the researcher becoming the director, where with the technologies that are being introduced at the enterprise, at every level, at every single point of the survey value chain, for example. How data gets cleaned, how surveys get designed, how we think about prepping data, all the work that has to happen before you can even sort of start to think about connecting dots and what does this mean for the organization? And, then, ultimately delivering it. What is the mechanism by which – Researchers spend hours just, even after they have a story, putting together the PowerPoint or putting together the report that then goes out and then has to be presented. And I think that the entire – All of that friction in the value chain is gonna be systematically alleviated. And it’s gonna free up researchers to do what they love to do, which is storytelling, which is using their domain expertise to connect dots and to craft insights, which is really just the shortest story you can tell between a data point and, ultimately, an action that the organization takes. I mean, this is really fundamentally why researchers love what they do, broadly, is to make evidence based recommendations or decisions based on their understanding of why people are behaving the way that they are. And I think that there’s a really cool set of technologies – And not just in the analysis space where we are, but just broadly how surveys get designed, how they get distributed, how they get cleaned and prepped, how blockchain will ultimately play a role. How business intelligence tools like Tableau, etc., will play a role in the distribution and, as you noted, the democratization of insights. I think that this swirl of technologies are no longer just sort of ideas, but you’re seeing them be implemented in different ways. And researchers who have spent a long time being the PA on the movie set are gonna start to be the director of the data. And I think that all of these tools at our disposal are gonna be – Are gonna make them heroes. Are gonna make them feel like superheroes and get back to doing things that are powerful, and especially in uncertain, volatile environments, like where we are now. We’re in extraordinary volatile time in the world, in our culture with the pandemic and other things. And I find that organizations that recognize that begin to really double down on the data. They start to say, “Well, we can’t just throw things at the wall. We don’t have extra budget or excess experiments that we can be doing. But, instead, let’s found all of our assumptions in data. Let’s really prove out what we think should work and really understand our customers.” And I just see that accelerating because the amount of venture capital and really, really smart people dedicating themselves to the systematic friction points because it’s a really enormous market. There isn’t a single brand on the planet that wouldn’t benefit from being more empathetic, from really better understanding the customer in a systematically less friction filled way, and being able to connect those dots more quickly. The movies that we make today are just so much more exciting and amazing, there’s so many more tools at your disposal than what was even possible 50 years ago. And, so, it just – It’s a very exciting moment, I think. And I – And especially in periods of volatility or economic distress, it’s my experience that researchers really are able to step to the plate and start to make some really important decisions and empower more empathetic decisions across organizations. [00:32:04] Jamin Brazil: You have the distinct honor of being on Forbes 30 under 30. You obviously understand the key to success. You don’t accidentally wind up there. This particular interview is being done in context of how to successfully manage a career in consumer insights. What are a few recommendations or tips that you would give our listeners on how they can successfully navigate their career, especially from the lens of just entering into the space. [00:32:32] Jared Feldman: Absolutely. There’s three things that come to mind. The first is grounding yourself in the fundamentals, that research has been around since forever, and there’s a really important step in breaking the rules, where you first have to learn all the rules. And this is, especially for younger people just getting into this space, it’s really important to know your history, to understand why things are done the way that they are, to bite your tongue, to know that it’s OK to disagree with things, but you have to understand them first. And that’s the first piece, is just really grounding yourself in the fundamentals. And I found that as someone as deeply interested in emotion and technology as I was near ten years ago when I first entered the space, I had a lot to learn about, sort of, how does a survey work? And why do people perform analysis the way that they typically do? And what are they looking for? And how do I be empathetic to the person I’m trying to serve and really understand how they’re feeling? And I can’t stress that highly enough, that that really is the first step, is grounding yourself in the fundamentals. The second thing I’ll note is to really seek out innovative cultures. I can’t tell you how many ideas die when the people around you aren’t supportive of you trying new things, that we’re, in fact, as a research community, we’re typically more risk adverse, that we want to prove things out and try to detail all of the different ways in which things could go wrong and try to kind of come up with the, sometimes, what might be the safest option. And innovative cultures, by their DNA, are encouraging of failure, are encouraging of trying new things. And after understanding the fundamentals, this is the most exciting part of research, is, “Well, I know that we’ve done things this way for a long time, and I understand why we’re doing it. And, now, I’m seeing these new technologies or these new things begin to enter the space.” And the culture at the company you’re working at or the company that you’re building has to have innovation, really, at its core. And I think it comes from the people around you, the manager that you have or the investors that you have or the people that you bring on really need to be insatiably curious and willing to take risks in a safe environment. And that has to be supported from the top down. The third thing I’ll mention is – And something, it’s a principle that I learned from Buddhism called the beginner’s mind. And it’s this idea that as we get older and as we become more experienced, we actually become – We become experts, right? Jamin, you’ve been in this space for so many years, you are an absolute expert in this space. And the sad part about being an expert though is that there are fewer choices. If, Jamin, if I say, “What’s the right answer, A or B?” You’re like, “Well, my years of experience tells me it’s A, so that’s the obvious choice.” And the beginner’s mind concept is like if you go back to when you were five, anything was possible. Creativity reigned. And someone would ask you, “What color is the sky?” And it could be purple for all you cared. It could be something totally outrageous. And that idea, the beginner’s mind, is really important to me. It helps me sort of remain in first principle thinking mode to understand the layout of a problem and what would typically happen, but to really take a step back and say, “Well, I know that I’ve got an expertise in this, but what if I didn’t? What options would open up?” And I – For researchers especially, and in launching a career, I think that the rate of change is accelerating. The amount of new things that have been introduced in the last five years are gonna be introduced in the next 12 months. And we have to be willing to ground ourselves in this concept of the beginner’s mind to embrace that change. And it’s just a mentality piece that has been helpful for me, that I try to encourage my partners and team members to adopt as well, is what could be possible if you weren’t so certain you were right? [00:36:37] Jamin Brazil: It’s like a fun underpinnings of humility there. And, then, I think you’re right. We innately think we know the answer because of history, but actually history is not a good indicator in context of the rate of change, thinking about social platforms and impact they’re having and etc., etc. But I love that advice. That’s applicable to me right now, and I’m over 20 years in it. [00:37:01] Jared Feldman: Yeah. Right on. Right on. [00:37:02] Jamin Brazil: Last question. What is your personal motto? [00:37:05] Jared Feldman: I’ve had a couple of quotes that I think about often. I don’t know what constitutes a motto, per se, but just some – There’s an idea that I try to ground myself in quite a bit. There’s a stoic philosopher, Marcus Aurelius, who wrote meditations, which likely a lot of folks that listen to this are familiar with. But one of his quotes, he says, “Always bear this in mind, that very little indeed is necessary for living a happy life.” “Always bear this in mind that very little indeed is necessary for living a happy life.” And, for me, this is about humility and gratitude and perspective and trying to find moments throughout the day and ways in which to view the world that makes me hopeful and happy. And it’s a – It’s just a thing that keeps me grounded and, generally, is a helpful principle and just kind of motto to adopt that the world is tough and there’s really hard things going on for a lot of people, and to just find ways to be grateful and to remember that every day can be a good day. And that’s something that, on a personal level, helps me deal with the euphoria and also the panic that comes along with running a start-up, especially in a pandemic, and trying to be an empathetic leader and citizen and just general human, that you don’t need that much to live a happy life. And you can find those things if you look for them. [00:38:36] Jamin Brazil: My guest today has been Jared Feldman, CEO and Founder of Canvas AI. Thank you, Jared, for joining me on the Happy Market Research Podcast today. [00:38:45] Jared Feldman: It was my pleasure, Jamin. [00:38:46] Jamin Brazil: Everyone else, if you found value, I certainly did. I hope that you’ll take time, screen capture, share on social. If you tag me, I will send you a shirt. On top of that, I’d really appreciate it if you’d take time just to rate these episodes. That’s a great way for us to get feedback, but your five star ratings actually will help other insights professionals like yourself find this content. I hope you have a wonderful rest of your day, and thank you so much for listening.
In this episode, we’ll hear from Pepper Miller, President of the Hunter-Miller Group on her opinion and experiences about diversity in consumer insights.  Find Pepper Online: Website: http://www.peppermiller.net LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/peppermiller  Twitter: https://twitter.com/peppermiller Find Jamin Online: Email: jamin@happymr.com  LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/jaminbrazil Twitter: www.twitter.com/jaminbrazil  Find Us Online:  Twitter: www.twitter.com/happymrxp  LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/happymarketresearch  Facebook: www.facebook.com/happymrxp  Website: www.happymr.com  Music:  “Clap Along” by Auditionauti: https://audionautix.com  Epidemic Sound: https://www.epidemicsound.com/  This Episode is Sponsored by: 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. [00:00:00] Jamin Brazil: Hi, I’m Jamin Brazil. You’re listening to the Happy Market Research Podcast. My guest today is Pepper Miller, a principal consultant and an award-winning market researcher and speaker. In 1995, Pepper founded Hunter-Miller Group, a market research and marketing strategy company. She followed this by being the lead consultant in the largest study about African Americans in 2008. It was called the Black American Today Segmentation Study, commissioned by Radio 1 and conducted by Glovich [ph]. Today, Pepper is the president of the Hunter-Miller Group, author of Black Still Matters in Marketing, and co-author of What’s Black About It? Pepper, thanks for joining me on the Happy Market Research Podcast today. [00:00:45] Pepper Miller: I’m delighted to be here, Jamin, and I love your name, by the way. That’s a very cool name. [00:00:51] Jamin Brazil: Thank you very much. I owe it all to my parents. I did it. I was going to say, “I did a good job picking.” [00:00:57] Pepper Miller: I love that. That’s right. We pick them. [00:01:01] Jamin Brazil: Anyway, so well, speaking of parents, tell me a little bit about your parents and how they informed what you do today. [00:01:07] Pepper Miller: So my parents, they’re both deceased. I miss them a lot. Glad I picked them, to your note. But my parents- so my mom was an educator. And she was adventurous, Jamin. She was really ahead of her time. She had this intellectual curiosity, and I believe I got that from her. So my mother was traveling to Europe alone, and I remember she even- she went to Morocco too and she came back with pictures of her riding on a camel with a snake around her neck. So-. [00:01:44] Jamin Brazil: Oh my God. [00:01:45] Pepper Miller: you have to think back. In, “71, a black woman going to Morocco alone or going to London alone- black people are traveling a lot these days, but it was not like that in the, “70s. So adventurous spirit, intellectual curiosity. My father was a trained classical pianist. He had this right-brain, left-brain thing going. So he got an undergrad in classical piano. He got a master’s in music theory. And my father had- was an entrepreneur. He had a wonderful music school. He had 40-plus teachers, 200-plus students, a classical music school. And in our community, in the black community when I came along, wanting to be an entrepreneur was like “oh no, get a real job.” But not my father. He was very, very supportive of me going out on my own and working this market research thing. And my father also, in addition to having the music school, he worked for the government. So he led these audits of these large refineries, and one of the refineries that his audit team was auditing for years was Standard Oil. So he worked during the day, then he’d come home and teach and meet with his students and at the Austin Academy. And he had that for over 30 years, and when he retired from the government he moved his music school to South Carolina. So I got the entrepreneurship, that mindset from my dad. He was a people person too, a lot more upbeat, and really comfortable with talking with diverse people. His music school was very- it wasn’t a black music school. It’s probably more white kids and white teachers that attended the school than people of color. So it was good that he felt comfortable interacting with different people, diverse groups of people as well, which passed that on to me. So good parents. They divorced when I was 11, but good parents at the same time. [00:05:06] Jamin Brazil: So your mom, an adventurer. That’s an amazing- 1971 is the year I was conceived. My mom was very much into feminist movement, “60s. And then your dad having this classical music background and passionate entrepreneur, but then also with the rigor of operating in a government level. How did you wind up in market research? [00:05:40] Pepper Miller: Jamin, I worked at an ad agency. Well, yes, I worked at an ad agency. I didn’t work in the research department. I moved around. I started working and doing bookkeeping, and then I got promoted to work in the traffic department. And then I worked- so I worked at various jobs. I had-. [00:06:03] Jamin Brazil: And that was an operations role at JWT, right? [00:06:06] Pepper Miller: Exactly, it was. It was a wonderful job actually, because you were managing this 600-person office. And you’re working with architects and interior designers. And I had to- my boss was not- and if she listens to this, I’m so sorry. But she wasn’t very good. So I had to take the initiative to go and interview people and try to determine what each department’s needs were. And I learned a lot about the departments in interacting with people, so I was interviewing people. And I was doing research projects on “should we”- I know the controller asked, “Should we have our own security team, or should we buy our own planes? Or should we”- and so I was doing the research and coming up with the analysis for a lot of this as well. And I just found it fascinating because I’m this “why” girl. I got that from my mom. I always want to understand why. So I got exposed to advertising. I applied for the market research department and didn’t get the job and quit and just started doing research on my own. [00:07:22] Jamin Brazil: That is hilarious. [00:07:23] Pepper Miller: I know. [00:07:25] Jamin Brazil: I forget that [LAUGHTER] do it myself. What were those early days like? That had to be terrifying. [00:07:31] Pepper Miller: Well, one of the things- one of the black executives, because when I was at J. Walter, there were 600 people. There were 60 black people, and most of those people were clerical. So there were very few of us I guess in the professional, if you will, area. So one of the black executives left. Actually, a girlfriend of mine, we were starting our own business. And we were researching a business to start. And he heard about it and he said, “I heard you guys had a research company. And can you do a project for me?” We were researching what to do. So we stumbled into this thing, stumbled into doing focus groups. Didn’t realize that there were recruiters. We were out on the street recruiting people, and they would show up for $15 if you can believe it. Now it’s $100 for respondents. But we recruited people on the street. We would go to the malls and get thrown out. And so we stumbled onto it. And I just- and our relationship with the partner that I had dissolved relatively fast. But I just kept going. I just kept going with it. And here I am today. And actually, Jamin, when I started knocking on doors to conduct research studies, I didn’t intend on doing this black focus. But I showed up in this brown skin, and I kept hearing, “When we have something for the black market, we’ll call you.” And I was like, “Are you talking to me?” So I got pigeonholed or defined- I won’t say pigeonholed. I got defined in the black space by some of the people I was seeking out for business. And what I discovered was there’s just this huge disparity in terms of understanding the messages that they were creating for us, even the way they’re doing research. I’m glad you’re talking about this because it’s still an issue with me, and we’ll talk about that later. So there was just this huge disparity in terms of what brands understood or thought they understood about us, how we lived, and how consumers felt. So I just got into this, and then I just started- I started then going and I would go to these multicultural conferences. And there were no black people speaking at the multicultural conferences. They were Hispanic and Asian, mostly Hispanic. And that’s still kind of like that today in 2020 America. So I started asking the conference organizers if I could speak at the conference. And I didn’t want to talk about or focus so much on the demographics, but I kept talking about the “why,” the why black people behave the way they do, why we believe what we believe, why we do what we do. Those are the kind of presentations that I was talking about. Not that we’re 50-whatever percent of the population or 57% of us live in the South, and 13% of the population, we have this spending power. Those were nice-to-knows, but they didn’t seem to be motivating. So I started doing that and just really getting into it, and I’m very passionate about it. And today I describe myself as a- yes, I’m a researcher, an author, a thought leader, speaker. But I am really an advocate for black value, for adding black value, helping large brands understand our value as a people and as a market segment. So I’m less about “you need to target us.” My position is “you need to understand us.” So that’s where I am today. I’m doing purposeful work, and I absolutely love it. And I’m so loving this topic that you created and-. [00:11:31] Jamin Brazil: Thank you. [00:11:31] Pepper Miller: decided to talk about today, because it’s something that’s very near and dear to my heart as well. [00:11:38] Jamin Brazil: And it’s interesting. It’s largely coming out of my ignorance, by the way, as being a white guy. And not that that’s bad. It’s just how it is. And I grew up in a household thankfully where my family just didn’t have any kind of issues, race, sexuality, whatever. And so that really wasn’t part of my story. Having said that, I loved how you framed your mission around “understand us” is exactly what we need right now, right? Which is not- definitely getting into understanding the why. But at the fundamental level, once you can understand someone, then you have the opportunity to build a relationship with someone, which of course is a bridge of commerce. I get that. But at the same time, without that, then- and this is the other side of it, which is like at my CrossFit gym, there’s one African American young man that is there. And so I see him as everybody else. But I would imagine- this is me. I don’t really know if it’s true. But I would imagine from his perspective, it’s different because everybody else is different ethnicity than him. So-. [00:12:54] Pepper Miller: Yes, but you should see him- it’s OK to see him as different. And that’s one of the things that I talk about, because we are taught to not talk about differences because it’s rude. It makes people uncomfortable, and now in this time that we live in, and particularly under this current administration, if you talk about differences, you’re seen as divisive. So when people say “Pepper, I don’t see you as a black person,” really? How could you not? How could you not see me as a black person, really? And the thing is seeing me as black and celebrate those things that are different about me: my brown skin, my kinky hair, my full lips. It’s OK. It’s different, but it’s not deficient. And what’s happening today when it comes to the black consumer in particular, when brands- when business leaders look at us, they look at us with this lens of language. So language has become the cultural identifier. Because we speak English, most US-born African Americans, and everybody that’s black is not African American. But most black people speak English. And because of that, the business leaders tend to roll us in with the mainstream. And when they do that, Jamin, there is a disconnect from our culture. And there’s a statement about our culture being less than or not important. “They speak English, don’t they?” is a question, a rhetorical question, a horrible question that a client said in my presence in a client meeting when I was the only black person in there. They didn’t want to invest in black consumer marketing, so that was a question that she said. And I was like, “Yes, I speak English. Are you talking to me?” Because it’s about relevancy, and it’s about relevancy with market research and how we approach that. And that’s something this industry is way, way, way behind on. It’s [CROSSTALK] disenchanted with the market research industry when it comes to diversity. [00:15:07] Jamin Brazil: And part of the challenge there is feeling safe, so like I do with you, so that we can have a productive conversation. And my fear just transparently is walking into this conversation, am I going to use the right- should skin color- what words do I say? What’s the nomenclature so that we can talk about the same thing without the fear of it being perceived as or me saying something that’s just catastrophic? One of the examples I gave in a separate conversation is that I grew up in a very- like I said, it was a great home. It’s very, very fortunate. No choice of mine. And my grandparents were- during the World War II, during the Japanese internment camps, there were quite a few Japanese farmers here in the Central Valley. And so my grandfather helped spearhead a group of farmers to take care of and keep active the Japanese farmers’ farms so that when the internment camps were- when they were released, then they’d be able to come back to work in farms as opposed to basically losing everything. But the reason I say that is because I grew up in a context of using the term “oriental” to refer to people that were from Asia. And I learned as I started traveling, that’s actually a very bad way-. [00:16:36] Pepper Miller: Exactly. [00:16:37] Jamin Brazil: Yes, a way of communicating. So it’s an insult. And so- but never was that the intent behind the words, but it just functionally is. And that kind of framework has in some ways impeded me to have a productive conversation because I just don’t know what words I should- or maybe I am going to step on a word that is not the right thing, and then potentially offend the person. [00:17:05] Pepper Miller: Well, the number-one question I’m asked all the time is “what do black people want to be called, black or African American?” So we get- just give you a quick lesson on that real quick. Even though African Americans are black by race as I said earlier, not all black people are African Americans, because we have this huge population of black Caribbeans, black Latinos, and we have the blacks from Africa. And so there are some African Americans that want to be called African American because they want that connection with the African American culture, and some that- continent, and some that don’t. I like to be called black because I like to see myself connected with the global dark-skin black people globally. I think on the safe side is to use the word “black.” I think it is preferred. I don’t think- but many black people are not insulted if you call them African American. Some of the Caribbean and Africans might be a little sensitive. So if you are doing a podcast for example with Africans and Caribbeans, I would not use “African American.” I would use “black,” for example. Otherwise if you’re talking about black people in the United States and you’re writing about it, or even talking about it, you could use the two interchangeably if you’re talking about them in general. And we live in a society today where- we live in a culture where- the culture of “I am offended.” So everybody’s offended, so that’s understandable. And because black people have been- we are the largest to be discriminated against and the longest to be discriminated against, so I can understand people who want to forge a better connection, how you can be sensitive. I think not saying “those people” or “the blacks.” That’s offensive. Saying things like “you are so articulate,” as opposed to what? That’s kind of offensive. Things like that that people are well-meaning or don’t talk in Ebonics. Even if I start talking in Ebonics, you can’t do that. Don’t you do it. So little things like that, because that’s just part of our- that’s part of our culture that we do that can be viewed as stereotyping or poking fun at if you do it. Because we’ve got this different lens, and I know we’re getting off-track here from the diversity topic. But just a couple of little insight things. But you’re fine. [00:19:53] Jamin Brazil: That’s actually really helpful. So on that topic then- and this is a personal matter- I grew up in the WWF, later WWE, World Wrestling Federation. Big fan of that in my youth. Still think it’s awesome, but I don’t watch it. And one of my favorite characters or actors or wrestlers is Hulk Hogan. And he was renowned for saying- calling people “brother.” And that’s something that I have adopted in the way that I refer to people. But I still feel like if I’m addressing a black male, maybe I shouldn’t call him “brother” with potentially offending him. [00:20:37] Pepper Miller: Correct, because it’s one thing to say “hey, man,” but not “brother,” because we call ourselves brothers and sisters. Even if I go to Africa or the Caribbean, it’s like “my brother, my sister.” You are probably our cousin. After you spend time with people and call them that, but-. [00:21:00] Jamin Brazil: It’s different. [00:21:01] Pepper Miller: It’s a little- yes, because it’s personal. [00:21:06] Jamin Brazil: No, makes sense. [00:21:07] Pepper Miller: It’s intimate for us as a culture to call each other brothers and sisters, and it’s our connection. It’s about unity. It’s about respect. It’s a lot in there when we use the word “brother.” So [CROSSTALK] use it- may be out-of-place. [00:21:25] Jamin Brazil: Yes, I totally appreciate that guidance. [00:21:27] Pepper Miller: No worries. [00:21:29] Jamin Brazil: Discuss with me your company. [00:21:31] Pepper Miller: So we- it’s not so much “we.” It was five of us. Actually it was five of us years ago for a long, long time. So now it’s me and a couple of my smart partners that I have. But we do qualitative and quantitative research, and we do keep busy. We’re doing mostly qual though where we’re having conversations with our audience. We bring that element into the client. And one of the things that I’m doing, been selling a lot is having a film crew- taking this film crew with me in the focus group room, or taking the most articulate respondents from those groups and going into their homes with their buddies, with the film crew and creating this sizzle reel. Because it’s so important, and clients today want to hear from the mouths of the consumers how they feel about X, Y, Z. And what’s interesting too is when I started years ago, I wanted to always have this conversation about what it means to be black in America, and what does that have to do with your brand? And clients didn’t want- “We can’t do that. We can’t talk about that. We can’t talk about race in focus groups. Why you got a black moderator in a black group? Why do you think we’re doing this?” Nobody wanted to do it. But now today it’s important to do because under this current administration, I’ve noticed that we’ve had this a-ha moment, and that America still has a huge problem with race. So that’s one of the things that we do. We focus a lot on qualitative research, making sure we get the right people in their seats. We hire out for quantitative partners, and we do really, really good work. We do wonderful work. Clients really love us, particularly when we’re giving this deliverable of a sizzle reel. So I blog. I was blogging. I was blogging for Advertising Age for seven years. I blogged for Forbes, and I put blogs on LinkedIn. I wrote a couple of books. I’m working on another book. But I have a wonderful analyst, a report-writer. I have a young millennial partner who is one of my strategists. She is so wonderful. She does my reports and she strategizes with me. And that’s basically our team today. When Barack Obama was elected, I saw this significant drop in interest in black research, black media, and black advertising for eight years because we were post-racial. Language become a cultural identifier. And because of that, there was less interest in investing in black anything. So now under this current administration again with this a-ha moment where America has seen that we still have a huge problem with race, it’s undeniable. The phone has been ringing again, and we’ve been busy and doing work for companies that have never, ever- you would be amazed at some of these big brands that have never, ever, ever done any research with the African American market, ever. [00:24:56] Jamin Brazil: So really quick, is your team- what ethnicity- what’s the composition look like? [CROSSTALK] curious. [00:25:04] Pepper Miller: Well, I have one white gay guy, then everybody else is black. So I just lost my- the report-writer that had been with me since 1995, he passed away a couple of years ago. And he had started pulling back a little bit and wanted to retire. But it was him and the young woman that helped him pull the reports together. He was black. She was white. My assistant, and I had a moderator and myself. So it was five of us. And we rode like that for years. We did really well. We could do five projects at one time. So we’re not a big company. Now it’s me and then my smart partners now, but I’m doing fine. [00:25:54] Jamin Brazil: What is the role of diversity in research? [00:26:00] Pepper Miller: It should be- it’s a huge role, but it’s not happening, Jamin. It’s not happening. So the role of research is I think a couple of things from my perspective and the type of research that we do, that we have diverse participants, people who are the audience that we’re going after to learn from. We need to be doing research and getting their opinions and helping them become more involved in this research industry to understand who they are. And then we should have diverse professionals and research teams, the people who are collecting the data. The people at the focus group facilities. The people that are recruiting these participants and designing the instruments. And that is not happening. That’s not happening I want to say at all, but it’s like dribbles. It’s like little specks of pepper in a big bowl of vanilla ice cream. That’s how it looks to me, because our country- if we look at America or just globally, we just look at America, it’s becoming more brown. And we cannot use this mainstream approach to invite people into the research process, and we continue to keep doing that. And I don’t think it’s relevant. I think the questions need to be relevant to the audience in terms of helping them feel comfortable enough to participate, and then comfortable enough to tell their stories. That’s not happening. It’s not happening. And the people behind the scenes that are analyzing, I read something, a report years ago, not that long ago where the stereotypes about black people- because this is what, in the minds of this analyst, he believed what he saw and heard in the media. So a lot of those things were his conclusions. And it was something about- it was a study about black women or mothers. And he talked about black women being welfare queens. But anyway, he devalued the black mother. And it was like- I thought that was terrible, because all black moms are not bad moms. And all black moms are not on welfare. But he painted that picture because that was his perception, and not understanding the background of who we are, where we- and that’s one of the things I talk about, the “why.” We have a different beginning, a different history, different lens, different beginning, different treatment. As a result of the treatment, we have different beliefs and behavior. So why then are we not creating instruments and teams to reflect who our audience is and what they believe and how they behave? And that’s not happening, and I think that’s crazy. Not only with black people. Just with Latinos, with Asians, with Polish people. Why are we not doing that? Because we still have a very, very non-black, non- very, very white research industry. It’s very, very white. So-. [00:29:17] Jamin Brazil: Yes. You go to a- I was talking with a good friend of mine, Kristin Luck. She’s spearheaded an organization in research called Women in Research, WIRe. And the intent there is to help elevate women at the executive level inside of research companies, agencies and brands. It’s been very successful. Done it now for whatever, 15-ish years. And in this conversation we were framing out, looking at this audience of people. There’s a few hundred people at this particular event. And there was no black people. And it was very stark to me that we’re talking about- there’s such a massive gap right now inside of leadership absolutely, but even inside anywhere. Inside of consumer insights as it relates with minority groups. [00:30:14] Pepper Miller: There’s been a couple of- I’ve gone to some research- why did I happen to do that? I don’t know. Maybe it was a research conference. I don’t know. But these big research conferences, there’s no black people. I even spoke at one of the associations’ conferences, and we had a little- what do you call it? It wasn’t on the main stage, but it was a breakout. [00:30:41] Jamin Brazil: Yes, breakout. [00:30:41] Pepper Miller: It was a breakout session. So I went straight to the breakout session when I arrived, and we were all going to meet for lunch. And I said, “Well, let me get my stuff. I’ll take it to my room and then I’ll come to the main dining room.” And the main dining room, it must’ve been, I don’t know, 800 people. Really, it was huge because it was a big conference. And when I opened the door, I was shocked. I didn’t see any black people there. I was like- and I just see it over and over and over again in these research events where the research companies come out and they all have booths. I keep forgetting the name, but it’s the biggest research whatever. And they all [AUDIO SKIPS] booths, and there’s no black people. And I started walking around, and even some of the companies I had done business with. And I was saying- I was asking them, where are they with their ethnic and multicultural research as the company is becoming more brown? “Are you guys looking into growing that segment?” I would just ask them. I would tell them, “I did a study with you years ago. It was a big study, and just surprised. I’m just dumbfounded.” So with the instruments, I think the questions and how we ask questions sometimes aren’t relevant. When I do focus groups, Jamin- is it Jamin? I keep-. [00:32:02] Jamin Brazil: Jamin. You got it. [00:32:04] Pepper Miller: I keep saying Jah-min. Jamin. When I conduct focus groups, when I moderate a focus group of all black people, I discovered years ago that I have to invite them to be black. I have to invite them to be black because they are undoubtedly- and I use particular recruit- I’ve been using a recruiter now, a national recruiter for about 15 years because he has black recruiters on there. Because sometimes you got to talk to black people about this. This is new. Got to talk to them about a focus group. So in the focus group room, I asked them, “How many have ever participated in a focus group before?” Now when I started early on back in the, “90s, you got no hands going up. So you got hands going up today. People are exposed, better educated. They’re participating in the process of at least qualitative research and focus groups, so hands go up. I asked them, “How many of you have ever been in an all-black group?” And no hands go up. I ask them that every single group, and 2020 America, I’m still getting the same response. And there’s something wrong with that. Again, black people speak English, so we’ll just roll them in with mainstream and we’ll have a focus group. And we’ll have two black people in there, and that will be our representation of our nation. And so in inviting them to be black, I explain to them how the sponsoring client is interested in our opinions as black people because our culture tends to dictate. “And so as the spirit moves you, as you feel comfortable, please- I want you to talk about your experiences as a black person. You don’t have to because it’s a room full of black people in there. But if you want to say, “hey Pepper, as a black woman I feel like this’ or, “as a black man, I feel like this,” feel free to say that.” And I started doing that because when focus groups were ending and I was standing at the door thanking people as they leave, some respondents would say, “What’s up with this black group? Why [INAUDIBLE] us? What is this about? I would have said X-Y-Z if I had”- so I make it a practice to always let people know what’s going on. And the thing there though is that when I ask people “how many of you have been in an all-black group,” no hands go up in 2020 America. And I’ve been doing that probably for the last ten years. I ask every single group that question, and I get the same response. In every city that I go to- and we’ve done 18 groups, nine groups, and it’s the same thing over and over again. There’s something wrong there. So-. [00:34:50] Jamin Brazil: Do you see that- I agree that- and actually, it’s funny because I’ve done a lot of recruiting for groups. I’ve moderated a lot of groups. And you’re 100% right. The sample frame for focus groups usually looks like a mini-pie chart where you’ve got, I don’t know, one Hispanic, one black, and a bunch of white people, or something similar to that. But now that I’m hearing you talk about this, it’s super enlightening for me, which is terrifying at almost 50 years old for me. Where were you 20 years ago? Because really, uncovering the “why” is getting to know the culture, is embedded inside of the culture. And you can’t have that in a mix- that conversation in a mixed context, or it’s much more difficult anyway. I don’t know how I would moderate it. [00:35:49] Pepper Miller: Well, especially with black people and race, it’s still an issue. The other thing- when people talk about playing a race card, you’re playing- I hate that, because it’s always played. When I walk out of my house, it’s played. And I’m in this brown skin and I’m stepping into a situation. It’s always being played. I hate when people say that, because it’s always an issue. Racism is still alive and well unfortunately in this country, so we’re still going through these issues and situations. And we’re still- black people are looking at most of us. They’re like through this lens of our history and how we’ve been treated and race. It’s just a reality. So you want to be able to put it out there and you want to be able to talk about it if it comes up. You want to be able to- and you want your respondents to be able to do that. Asian, Hispanic- you want them to be able to do that if it comes up. And it’s not a session where people are complaining necessarily. It’s just talking about how we live and how we navigate life. And it’s never, ever been a session where people are complaining or talking about “white people did this to me.” It’s never, ever been like that. It’s never been like that, never. [00:37:13] Jamin Brazil: Are you seeing a rise in specific products that are geared towards just black people? [00:37:29] Pepper Miller: I’m seeing a rise in more of beauty products, hair and beauty, that industry. We’ve got dark skin. We’ve got kinky hair, and some of these brands are just now figuring out that they should be targeting us. So that’s been one thing. It’s more of a rise in what beauty is, particularly when it comes to black women who have not been a part of the beauty industry, not having products that met our needs. Only seeing white females or very light-skinned black women with very- hair that’s similar to white women in terms of being naturally straight and flowing. So there has been a rise in that, and then the need for products that need to serve those needs. Our skin gets ashy. It gets dry and ashy, so we need those kinds of things. Our hair is kinky, so we put oils on our hair and creams on our hair. And so there’s been a rise in products to service those needs. I would say that stands out. And then there’s stores and brands that- beauty stores that need to target this particular segment. So I think when I think about products or services, that really, really comes to mind that has exploded, the beauty industry and products for women of color, just period. [00:39:16] Jamin Brazil: Yes, observationally I’ve been seeing that more and more. Part of that though is just probably self-selecting. One of my friends, Orion Brown, she actually lives in Chicago. She recently started a CPG company called- and I’m probably going to get it wrong, but it’s the Black Travel Box. And it’s basically inside of hotels, the soaps and things like that are centric to white people, Caucasians. And so this is in their travel box. This is the same type of proportions that you would see in a hotel room, but targeting obviously the black community. So it’s a-. [00:39:59] Pepper Miller: [INAUDIBLE]. [00:40:01] Jamin Brazil: I thought so too. I’ll introduce you to her if you’re interested. I’m sure she’d love the opportunity to meet you. So we’ve talked about the role of diversity in research. What considerations do you think we should give to the actual team composition that’s doing the research? [00:40:22] Pepper Miller: When you say “considerations,” what-. [00:40:26] Jamin Brazil: So should there be diversity at the research team level? In other words, the people that are actually conducting the research. [00:40:36] Pepper Miller: Absolutely, and the people who are analyzing the research. That’s what I was saying, that it’s two segments. We need diverse participants, those people who are respondents, inviting different respondents in, and then doing research individually with those segments. And then at the team level, the consideration should be more people of color. But they’ve got to recruit more people of color and multicultural consumers and Asian consumers and LGBT consumers. And how you- and being a part of the team and how you’re setting up the instruments is important. I work with AARP, and their supplier- I think it was JFK. I think they’re Ipsos Research now. But they’ve done a ton of quantitative studies with the black consumer market, and I’ve been a consultant on those studies with their quantitative partner. And sometimes the language in terms of how you open or how you close- for example, one of the studies included a sample of whites in addition to the African American respondents. And there was a section where we were only going to ask these questions of the blacks, and then we’re going to ask these questions of everybody. And there needed to be some kind of transition language. There needed to be something to let people know that these black questions are- maybe it was a mainstream study and they were going to ask only certain questions to the black people. That’s what it was. But I said, “You got to- we’re going to transition to these black questions in this mainstream study.” And that’s with black people like, “What is that about? Why are you asking me that? Why are you singling me out?” I said, “We need to have some kind of transition statement so that they don’t quit in the middle of the survey and we lose them. We don’t want them to do that.” So little things like that that the team didn’t understand because they’re just following how they were trained and regular protocol. I think some of the questions might not even make sense to some consumers, some of the way they’re worded, or maybe even the order that they’re- there’s a lot. Because culturally particularly with Spanish and other languages when you translate, it may not make sense. So having people and professionals on your team that understands the culture of the people and allowing them to bring their whole selves to the table, their culture to the table and share these cultural insights with the rest of the team is important. That’s the other consideration, is having other people not be intimidated by others who want to share their culture. It’s a huge opportunity. It doesn’t mean anti-white, or it doesn’t mean that white people have to go away. It’s about a collective combination of a real cultural, multicultural team effort that could be beneficial to all of us. So that’s one of the things that happens. When something new comes in, people feel like you’re losing something and you’re gaining something. So there’s this fear, and then we have these roadblocks that go up. I have been talking to- I was at a conference and there was a couple of young millennial researchers. And as a matter of fact, we’re getting together on March 10th because they are trying to bring together other black researchers and connect in the city and nationwide, and how we can have some impact on the market research industry in terms of helping to make it more diverse. So I was happy that they reached out, and we’re planning on doing that really, really soon. [00:45:07] Jamin Brazil: That is a very important endeavor. Anything this show can do to help, like promote that-. [00:45:14] Pepper Miller: Thank you. [00:45:15] Jamin Brazil: Or outcomes of that, you feel free to-. [00:45:17] Pepper Miller: Keep in touch. I will. Thank you. [00:45:20] Jamin Brazil: This conversation is super illuminating to me. One of my biggest takeaways in terms of new knowledge is the importance of getting- the importance of the analytic stage, and the interpretation of the results as it relates with the specific lens of the segment, right? [00:45:49] Pepper Miller: Mm-hmm. [00:45:50] Jamin Brazil: And that’s so interesting that as I’m self-reflecting, I’ve not- and this isn’t about me turning into a therapist. I apologize. But the a-ha moment for me is I’m going to see that data in a specific way and make my own sort of connections to that, which is maybe even entirely missing the actual “why” of that people group. [00:46:14] Pepper Miller: So I’ve been working on a study with a major network. And I convinced them to do this two-phase project and bring the video production team in the focus group with me, with the respondents. We took the tables out and just put couches in the living room setup. And then phase two will be going into the homes. And then when I approached the video production company, they told me they didn’t have any black videographers. I said, “You need to find some. Dude, this is 2018 America. What’s wrong with you?” So I have this black crew. So one of the things that we do in our report is- even our qualitative report, is we have clips from the focus group, video clips of the respondents. So we have our key takeaways and what that means, and then a clip. And then I also have two boxes, the opportunity box in terms of what this means to the brand. But I also have a black insights, if there is one. Here is the black insight, batch value. It’s an old-school term, Jamin, but batch value is where a lot of black people use a lot of upscale luxury items and brands to confirm and create how they want to be perceived. Because a big part of the multicultural experience is countering negative stereotypes for Hispanics, Latinos, blacks, and LGBT, Asians and Native Americans. That’s a big nucleus part of our experience, and even more so with African Americans who had to endure slavery and then this long discrimination. And it’s particularly a big deal for us. So I might have an insight box that explains that if it’s relevant to that topic, not in those long terms but something a little shorter, to help the client understand why this is important. And so without me and my insights in that analysis, they wouldn’t have that. “Black people just buy that because they’re wasting their money. They’re spending their money in a bad way.” Its batch value is real for us from a socio- every socioeconomic level. It’s important. It’s very important to us. [00:48:56] Jamin Brazil: I was just going to comment on top of that, that I think when you have that juxtaposition of a judgment of how money is being utilized, potentially being frivolous, versus actually the need to counteract the in this case racism potentially that exists. And in the connection to these luxury brands, then in essence personal branding out of the negative stereotypes. And it’s such a different psychological point of view that you would maybe have a hard time, if it even was possible, if you didn’t understand the cultural context. [00:49:36] Pepper Miller: Correct. And so those are some of the things that are included in our reports that you wouldn’t see in a mainstream report. I worked on a big beauty brand with Ulta Beauty. We did three phases of research. We did the focus groups, we did the in-homes and shop-alongs, and then I hired Ipsos as a quantitative partner. And it was wonderful because in doing the quantitative phase, I was very instrumental in helping them understand. They did an excellent job of coming up with some findings. “This is what this means. Definitely this is what this means to the brand, and then this is what this means from a cultural lens, from the cultural lens of the black woman and why this is important to her and why you must do this or must consider this and that.” So it was a wonderful, wonderful study because we had that collaboration. And that’s what’s so important, and these are some of the things that are missing with the research industry today. They are talking to themselves, not talking to us. Yes, we speak English. Are you talking to me? No. [00:50:53] Jamin Brazil: Oh, man. I’m laughing because it’s a little uncomfortable, but then it’s comically silly almost. [00:51:02] Pepper Miller: Yes. Well, we have a long way to go. Barack Obama was- it was not post-racial. We will be post-racial when there’s the tenth woman, Latino, black, LGBT, gay- when we have those presidents, those groups in office in the White House, then maybe we’ll be post-racial. But it’s not the first that makes us post-racial. It’s what comes after in huge numbers that would make us post-racial or make us get it, not the first. We tend to get comfortable. We had a black president, and brands have said, “You have a black president now. What do you want?” People have said that to me. Business leaders have said that, because they felt like, “We’re cool now. Everything is great.” [00:51:55] Jamin Brazil: The point that really stands out to me right now is that brands have an oversized opportunity to increase their- or grow if they can connect and understand these audiences and build that relationship. And so successful brands I believe will be the ones that actually do that, as opposed to maintaining the status quo of, as you’ve said, talking to ourselves. [00:52:27] Pepper Miller: And they have to- it’s overcoming this unconscious bias of not talking about differences. Because as I say in one of my presentations, many business leaders believe it’s forward-thinking to not talk about the differences. So you bring in people that are different from you. You invite them in the room and at the table, and then you invite them to comment. So you got to make sure that everybody’s in the room, and then everybody’s at the table, and then everybody has an opportunity to share and learn. And then you do that, listen to these differences, and without judgment. Again, different does not mean deficient. To your point, it is an opportunity because if you are understanding people who are different from you, and you’re creating messages and products and services, then you are bonding with those consumers. And if you’re bonding with them, you’re going to have loyal customers. And if you have loyal customers, you’re bound to see positive impact on your bottom line. That’s a very simplistic way of looking at it, but it also could happen. It’s real, but it’s a very simplistic way of looking at it. But that’s a different way, an opportunity to look at why differences matter. [00:53:54] Jamin Brazil: Pepper, my last question is what is your personal motto? [00:53:59] Pepper Miller: So I love this quote by Eleanor Roosevelt. “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” It doesn’t mean it’s a research, but for me I’ve had to live this, my life as a black person in America. “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” So it’s about perseverance. It’s about being fearless. It’s about stepping up and standing up for what you believe in. I just love that quote, and I’ve had to use it as a research professional and as being a black person in America. “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” And even on some smaller levels as a personal level, it’s helped me. But I love that quote. [00:55:00] Jamin Brazil: My guest today has been Pepper Miller, a principal consultant and an award-winning market researcher and speaker. Thank you, Pepper, very much for being on the Happy Market Research Podcast today. [00:55:08] Pepper Miller: My pleasure. This has been delightful and you’re delightful. I love this. Thank you. [00:55:13] Jamin Brazil: So I appreciate you allowing me to fumble my way through this very difficult conversation, but I have learned a lot from it, so thank you very much. Everybody else, as always, please take time. Screen-capture, share this episode. This is a very important one for us to start talking about. I’d love to get your feedback, LinkedIn and Twitter. Have a wonderful rest of your day.
My guest today is Jonatan Littke, co-founder of Lookback.  Founded in 2013, Lookback is a video capture and sharing application used by User Experience professionals to conduct both moderated and unmoderated user research projects that is used by over 1,600 companies globally.  Prior to founding Lookback, Jonatan founded several companies including GosuGamers one of the world’s largest eSports websites and Ripple, a UX Consultancy. Additionally, he was one of the original Spotify engineers.  Find Jonatan Online: LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jonatanlittke Twitter: https://twitter.com/littke  Find Jamin Online: Email: jamin@happymr.com  LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/jaminbrazil  Twitter: www.twitter.com/jaminbrazil   Find Us Online:  Twitter: www.twitter.com/happymrxp   LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/happymarketresearch   Facebook: www.facebook.com/happymrxp   Website: www.happymr.com   Music: “Clap Along” by Auditionauti: https://audionautix.com  [00:00:00] Jamin: Hi. You’re listening to the Happy Market Research podcast. My guest today is Jonatan Littke co-founder of Lookback. Founded in 2013, Lookback is a video capture and sharing application used by user experience professionals to conduct both moderated and unmoderated user research projects. Prior to founding Lookback, Jonatan founded several companies including GosuGamers. This is one of the world’s largest e-sports Web sites and Ripple, a UX consultancy. Additionally, he was one of the original Spotify engineers. Jonatan, thanks for joining me on the Happy Market Research podcast today. [00:00:41] Jonatan: Happy to be here Jamin. [00:00:42] Jamin: I’d like to start out with this contextual question. What did your parents do and how did they impact or inform what you’re doing today? [00:00:49] Jonatan: Sure. That’s a great question. So my dad was an engineer and a jet pilot in the Swedish military. And one of the things that my wife and I always think so much about his impact on me was how he is a man with a theme. And by that we mean that there’s something very central to his life, a particular interest or hobby at a given time and then when you meet him you will get to know about that theme. And I’m sure you have somebody in your life who’s like that. And my wife says that I’m like that and I kind of have that when I get something that feels like this is really what I need to do right now I just can’t let go of it. And I think that’s part of being an entrepreneur. I didn’t really know what I was quote unquote growing up because I liked to do a bunch of different things. But over time I realized that that’s that tenacity of being I need to see this thing built or I need to see this solution coming to the world. I just can’t let it go. Stay up all night thinking about it. So that’s probably the biggest contribution my dad had on me. I feel like that’s from him. Not being sure. But I think so. And then my mom was a doctor or is a doctor and she’s been also an educator in communications and teaching a lot about empathy and how doctors can meet patients with empathy and see it from their side and their situation and all of that. So I grew up with a lot of questions about feelings and a lot of don’t say you did this say when you do that here’s what I feel. So when you say that thing that makes me feel angry. And growing up really learning how to verbalize my emotions and access them from within my body. Identify where in the body the emotions are and all these things. And I like to believe that, that helped impact my decision to run this current company which, Lookback which helps increase empathy. At least we hope so with that company. So that I think is one of the biggest things my mom gave me, that whole emotional feeling side. [00:02:53] Jamin: You think about empathy and then also this grit to see things through. Empathy’s at the core of consumer insights. Did it play an active role when you started your UX consultancy and then later Lookback? [00:03:07] Jonatan: Yes. Exactly. That I think is a big piece of it. And I think user experience is so interesting in that way because it-I’m a designer and engineer as well. But I don’t particularly care for those functions or that role per say, although I enjoy it. But I do care about what is the end state that I’m able to put the person using the product in. And I’m not saying I’m the best at empathy. But I do certainly have built in the reward of identifying when somebody’s able to get to that point where they’re really feeling good or able to achieve their goal and that’s been kind of innate in me in a way that I’ve been building companies to try and create more of that feeling or have that as a reward more so than financial reward or fame and popularity. It’s how can we get more people use this thing in order to feel good or be more successful. [00:04:00] Jamin: It sounds like it’s a lot about enablement. Helping other people attain what is their goal or even full potential. [00:04:07] Jonatan: Yes, absolutely. That’s it. [00:04:10] Jamin: The other thing I think is interesting, your father-fighter pilot? [00:04:14] Jonatan: Yes. [00:04:15] Jamin: Instrumentations a big part of being a pilot and when you think about user experience, actually user experience was founded in the cockpit. So you, pilots needed to get into a cockpit and they needed to have the same experience or similar experience across planes. And that’s where the altimeter and speed and etc. became really important as this unifying force. [00:04:41] Jonatan: That’s a good point because my dad after being a pilot went into the industry of building airplanes and jet fighters and so. And just the other week he was calling me and raving about how terrible Boeing were doing with their instrumentation of the whole nosedive thing where the pilot has to steer in the right way and how they didn’t have enough sensors to accurately measure it. He was saying “when we built these jet fighters we had so and so many sensors and this-” And I think that’s a core piece of it is how do you build that experience that puts the pilot in control, which they weren’t in the Boeing. They weren’t allowed because the computer took over. How do you put the person in control to be able to do what they need to do especially in the time of crisis or challenging situations? That’s where I think technology really has to trust the human that’s in this case driving the engine or controlling the machine. Has to really trust it to know what it’s doing which then mixes them by case. [00:05:38] Jamin: And the, to the earlier point, the important of muscle memory and training kicks in, in those moments of crisis etc. And really kind of the design of what you do. So I did a little bit of getting my private pilot’s license. I haven’t completed the process and I don’t know that I actually will. But as I started that journey the thing that stood out to me was the importance of checklists and maintaining the discipline around the checklists regardless of if it was your first flight or it was your billionth flight. There really is no, it’s open ended. You just maintain that discipline. And the checklists get-they happen before you get into the plane and then there’s a whole other set of checklists that happen when you’re getting ready to take off and then there’s a whole other set of checklists that happen after you’ve taken off. And you kind of reverse those procedures. And then similarly there’s checklists that exist for moments of crisis. And I just-I found that really interesting that really every aspect of the flight has already been decision treed out for you so that you know what to do and a good pilot has functionally memorized those things. But then also has access to those in quick format, those checklists complete format so that they can then execute the right procedure at the right time. [00:06:55] Jonatan: And I think that’s so important to verify that things are going the way they should be even if everything is a green light and not just relying on that. Because I think as we think about scaling technology to millions or billions of people we can’t afford ourselves the luxury of check listing everybody’s experience was exactly the way that we wanted it to be. And yet I think that is our responsibility. And it’s somehow figuring out a way to ensure that vital systems like immigration or healthcare or has all of these rely more on more on technology we can’t allow the systems to fully govern that incredibly important and personal experience. So let’s say that computer or the records state that you had the wrong history because it pulled up the wrong record or whatever. And then we rely on that more so than the word of the person or the experience with the doctor, whatever. And that I think is the challenge going forward that we’re going to have to figure out how do you rely on technology without fully relying on it like the airplane’s a really interesting example of where we don’t really rely on technology fully because we can’t allow ourselves to do that. [00:08:04] Jamin: You’ve got actually a laminated sheet that tells you these are the-physically they’re [CROSSTALK]  [00:08:10] Jonatan: You have to verify it. [00:08:11] Jamin: Exactly. So this is an interesting point really. The black box that technology builds into our lives. The assumption that Google Maps is in fact giving me the shortest distance between A and B. And we don’t really have a way of validating that because it’s impossible for us to be able-well be impossible for us to validate that especially in context in real time. But we do increasingly put our trust in technology that it is operating for our good and the ethical association with that as it relates with the companies is interesting to me because yet is in some ways in conflict because the company’s objective is to make money. And so you do have this juxtaposition of the business has to do good. It’s going to do the best thing that’s in my interest, but at the same time they’ve got to operate in the interest of their shareholders as well. [00:09:09] Jonatan: That’s why I think it’s so interesting with emerging technologies that allow not full control of the system by any one player. So take banking where suddenly I could try to withdraw money and it says you have zero dollars on your bank account by an error and I would have absolutely no way of verifying or proving that actually I have a lot of money in there and they give it back to me. That would be really hard. And I think that the power decision that the owner or controller of a technology has right now is totally imbalanced. And so moving to systems that are more distributed or needs to be verified by more players at the same time or gives control back to consumers I think is absolutely critical if technology’s going to be able to sustain all of the reliance that we have on it and be able to back society to the extent that we want it to do. [00:10:00] Jamin: Give us a little bit, a very brief, the elevator pitch of Lookback. [00:10:04] Jonatan: Sure. So Lookback is a better way to talk to your users, specifically for user researchers we help with moderated and unmoderated research on mobile and on desktop. Remote as well and in person. [00:10:17] Jamin: And full disclosure to our listeners, Lookback and myself have a formal agreement. They have been a sponsor of our 2020 Q1 episodes. Very appreciative of that. This episode is not sponsored by Lookback. And the reason I think that’s really important and if you are a long-time listener or know me personally you know that I really don’t do anything for money. My motivation is to bring my audience the absolute best content at any given point. And the reason that I wanted to have Jonatan on the show today is because he’s birthed or created several very successful companies. Lookback being the last one. And in that process he’s gained a lot of insight in terms of identifying where market is and what the opportunity is and then also being able to bring to life that particular vision or that particular company. So, what I’d like to do is ask you sir what are some tips you would give aspiring technology entrepreneurs. [00:11:17] Jonatan: So, that’s a good question. I would start with making sure that you understand, fundamentally understand when what you build successfully solves the problem. Doesn’t have to solve the entire problem but as long as one key part is solved better than it was before than you’re good. But you have to be able to verify that yourself. If you’re building for somebody else, which you should, you shouldn’t assume that you’re going to be the end user. But you have to be able to verify they’re now able to do it better than they were before. And measure each improvement that you’re making to your product in terms of how much of a benefit is this to end users. Now of course research helps tremendously in this area, but at the same time in the beginning you’re going to need to make decisions so often, so rapidly that you can’t rely on every single micro decision being validated or researched upfront exactly, how well the solution is functioning. And so build, I would say build for yourself or build to the extent that you can validate it yourself. Yet at the same time you want to build for a higher purpose. And sometimes just serving yourself, let’s say that you have far more money than most people in the world or you’re privileged or you’re able to be in, to be in a position where you can start a company, which is fantastic, congratulations. Do remember that there are people out there who are not in that position and so building for yourself while at the same time scratching the itch or solving the need for somebody else or a lot of people out there I think is absolutely critical. So being able to combine those two is very important. I see sometimes people are very mission driven who want to solve problems for somebody else end up not creating really powerful products because they’re not able to get to that level of detail or understanding when the product actually does what it should do, if that makes sense. [00:13:09] Jamin: So flesh that out for me just a little bit more, the last part. I didn’t quite track with you. I get the first part which is you want to solve a real problem. It needs to be quantifiable in terms of the overall benefit to the customer. [00:13:24] Jonatan: But then you want to make sure that you’re not the only one having that problem because I see some real-the really great engineers especially on the mobile development side or they’re building these fantastic tools for themselves. They’re the best code editors in the world and they know exactly what they want. It’s so tailored for them and then you see the farther away you get from engineering you’re using crappier and crappier tools. You’re sitting in finance you’re, or maybe finance is a bad example. But you’re sitting in a function that’s far away and you’re just using so clunky tools that are not specifically built for you because nobody fully understands what a great solution for you would look like. [00:14:03] Jamin: So that’s a really-that’s-I love that. I’ve never heard that before which is, I don’t know if that’s important or not but, and I think that’s very true. The farther a technology is away from actual coders than the worst fundamentally the worst the experience is for the user or the worst it does at solving that particular problem. [00:14:24] Jonatan: I think power is shifting too. Product managers and business leaders are able to say we’re going to go in and solve this problem. But that’s where I’m saying. If you want to be that kind of entrepreneur who’s able to solve a problem that’s not necessarily your own you have to be able to find a way to know whether you’ve actually solved the problem in each micro interaction. You’ve got to know each button. Is this better than it was? This flow. Is this the way that we’re thinking about it? The whole mental model is this fundamentally stronger than what was instead of just saying we’re going to build a better support tool or we’re going to build a better micro loan system. But knowing it intimately is so critical. [00:15:04] Jamin: So you’d need to understand fully the problem and then you also need to understand the implementation or the user experience of your particular solution. [00:15:13] Jonatan: Yes. It’s almost like I would say if you don’t have a cofounder or yourself who personally has experienced this problem you’re not going to succeed. It’s going to be really hard. You have to surround yourself with people who want this problem solved and who have an intimate understanding of it because it’s not enough to just listen to people every now and then. It has to be very close to your heart. [00:15:35] Jamin: We start with founder market fit and then we move into product market fit. What do you see as one of the largest challenges for a startup or a set of entrepreneurs in today’s framework? [00:15:53] Jonatan: In the product market fit space specifically? [00:15:55] Jamin: It could be if you were just starting a company. [00:15:57] Jonatan: So I think a lot of-in the beginning you’re very focused on building things and on doing things. And I think a lot of people stop measuring the increased progress that you’ve done in your understanding of the problem solution that we just talked about. And so finding a way to quantify how much have we learned and how much better is that going to make us is really important because what I see, most people at least in tech entrepreneurs they sit down and the first thing they deal with, they start to write some code. Or now these days more people use, they use Figma and they create prototypes and they do some testing and all that is great. But at the same time it’s very focused around let’s start building something or least start creating something or doing a lot of things. So getting to the state where you can appreciate all of the conversations that you had and all the insights you’re getting. Basically, collect the insights. Pounding your insights is something I would definitely do more of. And then I would go back to the mission thing which is it’s going to be easier for you to succeed from a customer perspective if you build something that people want but also from a pure human perspective I do believe it’s going to be more and more important that your mission really resonates with where we want the world to go. And so that the mission is something that a lot of people can get behind. Now you’re going to hear BCs who say that they’ll invest whether, as long as it makes money. And I do believe that that’s true. But at the same time, everyone you’re interacting with is human being and if you can have a mission that resonates with people that’s going to help you tremendously when you’re hiring, when you’re getting advisors, when you’re getting press because if you’re doing something great people appreciate that and they like you more and they want to talk to you more and so on and so forth. So increasingly thinking about the mission that’s good for the world, not just disguised as good for the world I think is incredibly important too. [00:17:51] Jamin: It’s-I keep going back to that Steve Jobs quote which is, “Make a ding in the universe.” His overall driving mission of Apple. And sort of just massive aspirational goals. It wasn’t about at least the vision that we heard from the outside is that the company wasn’t built around making a billion-dollar company. And I’m sure that many people would have different points of view on that. But from an outsider perspective it was very clearly communicated. The need to create something and then communicate the actual vision or connect the vision to the thing that you’re creating, I think is one of the biggest opportunities for entrepreneurs because most people just create something and then expect people to use it like a set of features, as opposed to build something that is actually creating a better world or making a difference in individuals lives or what have you. It’s almost like are they using the tool or are they creating a better world. I know that’s such a crazy thing to say, but I really think that the overarching communication one, is a movement and the other is more of a transaction. [00:19:04] Jonatan: And one way to frame it is pretending to be a historical documentary that’s says in 2030 the world finally was able to achieve what because Jonatan Littke did what. And then you know both what is what you fill in and if you can honestly say that now the world can chat faster using mobile and that’s because Jonatan Littke built this great app of whatever. And if I believe in that and I think that’s great then sure, great. But if it starts sounding hollow then you’re like maybe this isn’t really contributing all that much. [00:19:44] Jamin: What is something-so you were part of the original Spotify engineering team. What was something that you learned as that particular engine was getting spun up? [00:19:53] Jonatan: Well, so I joined the engineering team and there were lots of brilliant engineers there for sure and particular grade designer called Russ Anderson [ph] who went on ultimately to move to the valley and joined a lot of companies. He’s at Figma now I believe. And he would always seem-forgive me, but he would seem like the guy who didn’t really care what people thought because he just wanted to build this great product. And that was always a little bit hard. And it was weird for me coming in. Sweden is so much about concepts and it’s like we, if there are five people in the group. If five people don’t agree than we’re not going to do it. And then here was this guy who was you know what, all those ideas they’re really bad. Here’s what we’re going to do instead. And he often got his way. And learning to make the decisions for the product, not necessarily always finding consensus is one of the big things for me back then. But then also is how do we treat one another when we disagree and how do we create a culture that is able to tie break when you end up in that kind of lock was definitely something I learned there. The other thing I certainly learned from CO Daniel was just being incredibly bold and his vision. Just the-at the time it’s like being a successful tech company out of Sweden and competing with all these US giants and in this-in the industry of music, what a challenge. It’s obviously somebody else is going to join this industry. Is going to join this, solve this problem. And today you have, I think every large tech company probably has a music app with Google, Amazon, and Apple obviously all do and then so you certainly taught me that. Going out and negotiating all those label deals and all those things. Certainly appreciate it there and have been trying to emulate, so. [00:21:35] Jamin: And already a material incumbent with Pandora. [00:21:39] Jonatan: Yes. For sure. And look at them today. They’re at 270 million users and I think 160 are something paid subscribers, 160 million which is fantastic. And every week, every month it would be like we have to grow because this market’s not going to exist forever. Let’s go get it. And we had several years but at the same time he was able to beat that trial continuously. And that for me was very new. I was very young when I joined Spotify. I was 21. But basically my first not-my first job not being where I wasn’t the founder myself. But that was very inspiring to kind of be part of that. Let’s do it. Let’s go get them. This whole movement of doing that every day sounds great. [00:22:21] Jamin: GosuGamers. That was first. That was your first company. That was, you were there before Spotify. Is that correct? [00:22:30] Jonatan: That’s right. Exactly. In my teenage years basically. [00:22:33] Jamin: Well all teenage boys like two things, one of them is video games. [00:22:37] Jonatan: I guess that’s true today. [00:22:42] Jamin: I think it’s been true for at least my generation. [00:22:44] Jonatan: You’re right. [00:22:45] Jamin: And so circa Atari 2600 for those that are wondering my generation’s go to. So that was a very big-it’s a very big EA Sports Web site. What was the founder market fit and then product market fit? story? [00:23:03] Jonatan: Well the founder market fit was my brother was great at playing the game and I wanted to be part of it but I wasn’t as great at playing. So I was what can I do. And I started writing about my brother when he was playing games. And published those posts online. And I was 11 years old. And then two years later those writings ended up being added to the site originally called the Star Cut gamers. And I just kept writing and writing about my brother and all these other players and it was basically like a fan site and because I loved the game. So I kept playing and I kept writing. And then that-I think one key difference I did compared to some, the few other sites that were out there was that they were in Swedish and mine was in English although I couldn’t even spell. And that just gave me a lot of, a much bigger market. And so I think I copied a lot what the other news sites were doing. But I just did it in English and that proved to be the successful recipe because it ended up growing and growing. And we had millions of gamers on that site and staff of 50 people just writing and covering gaming events. And so it’s really, I think my-it’s a good fit for because I liked the game but also I wasn’t good enough to be all- [00:24:22] Jamin: All in on the gaming side? [00:24:23] Jonatan: Yes, to spend all my time gaming itself. Exactly. [00:24:26] Jamin: Unfortunately, it seems more fun than writing, especially for teenage boys. [00:24:30] Jonatan: Well I got to be the manager of the national team because I started a national team. There wasn’t a national team so I said we’re going to start one and who did I put on a team? Well I put my brother on the team. [00:24:42] Jamin: Inside recruiting. [00:24:45] Jonatan: And then I had some tryouts and then eventually he couldn’t be a part of the team anymore but it was a lot of fun and then in terms of product-go ahead. [00:24:56] Jamin: If you would’ve had one for pong I swear to God I would’ve running man-nobody knows what those are. I would-dominated that space. But anyway-sorry. Then you’re saying product market fit. [00:25:10] Jonatan: And that’s what product market said. I think-I was thinking about it in those terms but essentially a lot of people wanted to read about the gamers. And I think today it’s-each person’s a billion-dollar industry and a lot of it is driven by your fans to these fantastic gamers or these fantastic teams or winning all this prize money. But back then it wasn’t an obvious and I like doing what you’re doing now is interviewing a lot of people and writing about them and posting their photo. And then people would write about-or come and read about that. So the product market fit was really good from that perspective. We had forums and we had match videos and all of that. So it’s a lot of gamers just hanging out reading about that. It’s pretty easy from that perspective. It’s here’s what I would want to read or want to have as content and then that’s what we made. So it’s back to the idea that you got to be able to know what’s valuable for yourself. That makes it away easier. [00:26:03] Jamin: What is your personal motto? [00:26:05] Jonatan: My personal motto’s probably if I had to pick one. I have a long list, but probably to know your dream. Sounds cheesy but I think we’ve lost dreaming to some extent. And by dreaming I mean I think of it as the act of creating visions but visions have this feeling that it’s very clear and it’s exclusive and the visionary can think of vision and that’s now everybody has to follow the vision. If you think about dreams it’s more accessible and approachable. Everybody has some kind of dream. We can –and they’re-dreams are somewhat fuzzy so that they can, your dream can join with mine and they can overlap and they’re not as exclusive. So the people that I know that have been really successful entrepreneurs they have a dream of what they want the world to be or how they want to change. And if I say what’s the one thing that you would change about the world those entrepreneurs certainly have thought about a lot about that. But the interesting thing is I think all of us really have a deep understanding of what we would want to change for ourselves in our own lives but also about the world. But it does take a little bit of effort to sit down and be like what is the highest dream that I can come up with. What is a better version than the dream I just made up? And you’re going to find, at least I found that there’s actually a threshold to how big you can dream. It is hard at some point to be like if I made my own life 10x better what would it look like. And then have 10x better than that, what would that like. And then you’re like, I actually can’t think of what would be better. And daring yourself to do that and go through that exercise really being clear about what those dreams are. Being able to communicate those. I think greatly enhances your ability to get there and to get there not just for yourself but for others as well. I think so much of our society today is about accepting the world around us as it is because the fact that we end up living in houses, driving cars, and going to work, those are not necessarily the only way that society could’ve been built but we all are that’s the way it is and that’s the way we’re going to do it and we just accept it straight up. But I think instead remodeling that and thinking about here’s the way I want it to be. Think it’s so important and I think just in friendships, in families, at work, shared dreaming and going through those exercises together I think is so important and has been a big motivation and joy for me to do together with people. [00:28:36] Jamin: My guest today has been Jonatan Littke. Successful technology entrepreneur. Jonatan thank you so much for being on Happy Market Research podcast today. [00:28:43] Jonatan: Thanks for asking me Jamin. [00:28:46] Jamin: Everyone else, if you find value in this episode I hope you will share it on social media Twitter, LinkedIn. Screen capture. Tag me. I will send you something special. Have a wonderful rest of your day.
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