Michael Jonathan Biscocho is the country head for Analytics & Insights of Procter & Gamble Philippines, a position that he assumed at the age of 26 years old. In this role, he sits in the Philippines country leadership team and reports to the P&G Philippines General Manager. He recently took on additional responsibility as Gillette Country Manager. He was recognized as a Mansmith Young Market Masters Awardee (YMMA) in 2016 and has been granted multiple regional awards within P&G.
Q1: What does it mean when people refer to insighting as “connecting the dots”? How would you describe “insighting”?
A1: Insighting is the ability to uncover a truth that is not immediately obvious, but has meaningful implications on business choices once known. It combines starting from base knowledge that you have built over time, then applying that to new information that you gather from multiple sources. The truth can be either a consumer statement (“Consumers wish that they could have diapers arrive regularly at their doorstep, because they know how much they need of what size by when”) or a market reality (“Food category sales start peaking in mid-November, as OFW remittances start coming in”). In the former example, it unlocks an e-commerce subscription model opportunity. In the latter, manufacturers will know when to ramp up investments.
I see 3 images that describe insighting: 1) putting together pieces of a puzzle (ala connecting the dots), 2) mining through layers of rock to get to gold and 3) being able to see around a corner. Putting together pieces of a puzzle means looking at both quantitative and qualitative sources, and viewpoints from a wide spectrum of people with relevant experience. Mining through layers of rock means that there will be false positives before arriving at a true insight, but that getting to one will be worth it. Seeing around a corner means that an insight should eventually lead to foresight, and thus be able to guide strategic choices moving forward.
Q2: In what ways does experience hinder or enhance insight hunting?
A2: Experience is a double-edged sword when it comes to insighting. On one hand, it can enhance insighting because you see patterns more quickly, have richer context to situate the insight in, and have a keener sense on whether it is a meaningful insight. On the other hand, it can also hinder insighting because you will have stronger biases, which make you less open to discovering new insights. There will be a temptation to fit the data or stories you hear into the preconceived conclusion that you had before the insighting process.
The way to resolve this tension is to do insighting via the Analysis Through Hypothesis approach. This means that you come in with a set of hypotheses to test out, based on your prior experience, but remain open enough to recognize that the hypotheses might be proven wrong. The more experienced you are, the richer your hypothesis set. At the same time, the sense of wonder and discovery should grow over time.
Q3: How can one spot meaningful differences in what they are seeing? Can you give examples in P&G?
A3: I have seen 4 ways to test for meaningful differences in whether the conclusion you are seeing is a true insight.
First, is there prevalence within the same data type on the conclusion that you are arriving at? On Ariel, consumer after consumer told us that they know it is the most superior laundry detergent in the market. However, a lot of them also said that they found the price point too high, especially for the smallest sachet. This, among other reasons, led to the highly successful Ariel Finally 7.50 campaign.
Second, do multiple data points support your conclusion? I personally try to follow the Rule of Three. If three data points point to the same conclusion, then it is likely to be true. For example, if I am trying to understand why a brand lost market share, and household panel, retail panel and consumer interviews all show that it started to lose share in the month when product formulation changed, then likely it means the formulation led to worse consumer experience.
Third, on consumer statements, does the reason behind a behavior seem generalizable? As an extreme example, if a consumer says she does not like black packaging on a fabric conditioner because she has a phobia of the color black, then I cannot take that to be broadly true. However, if she says that she does not like black packaging because black connotes dirty clothes, and she wants to make sure fabric conditioner aids in cleaning instead of setting it back, then I will not suggest black packaging.
Fourth, is your gut telling you that what you are seeing is meaningful? As you do more insighting work, you will sharpen your gut on what works and what does not. This is an especially important test for conclusions that will lead you to provocative campaigns. For example, the SK-II Marriage Market advertising, which addressed the taboo topic of “Leftover Women” in China, would not have been greenlit if the team there did not have a strong gut on what resonates with their target audience.
Q4: What specific advice can you give SME entrepreneurs to find consumer insights quickly and cheaply? What about shopper insighting to a grocery owner?
A4: For SME owners, the most important thing is to be obsessed with their consumers, and understand them as deeply as possible. One of my former managers, who is the best person I know at uncovering insights, calls this as embarking on a Consumer Love Story. It is process of understanding your consumers as people first, seeing what their dreams and aspirations are, and only then seeing how your product or service can help them get there, even in a small way.
There is a wealth of online tools now that cost very little to do to aid in this. These include Facebook analytics, Google search trends, Survey Monkey, word cloud analytics and many others. Of course, there is still no substitute to spending time talking to their consumers. They can do this via hiring a research agency to recruit the right profile, or just intercepting consumers in their store. The important thing is to keep probing and asking “Why” until they get sufficient depth.
For grocery owners, I have 3 pieces of advice: 1) identify the typical profile of your highest potential shoppers and spend disproportionate time understanding them, because usually 20% of shoppers will account for 80% of sales, 2) spend a whole day in your store watching shoppers interact with your shelves, then intercept shoppers every time they seem confused or put an item back, to know what their shopping pain points are and 3) keep testing out different executions, especially if you have multiple branches, because the most accurate way to learn is to see what the market responds to.
Q5: What research methodology is best for insighting?
A: I do not think there is a single approach that is best for insighting. The best insight managers I have worked with have fluency in both quantitative and qualitative techniques, leveraging both classical approaches (e.g. in-home interviews) and newer techniques (e.g. big data analysis aided by a computer program). It is highly contextual, depending on the business question that you are trying to answer.
Instead, what I have found differentiates effective insighting work are a couple of behaviors – 1) the person doing the insighting sees himself or herself as a business owner, not as a researcher, and thus always has a view towards what the implications of the insight are and 2) the person has natural curiosity on why things are the way they are, which propels them to dig a little deeper than the first answer they get.
Q6: What answers have you discovered to the question ‘Why do people buy what they buy?’ (or ‘Why do people do what they do’)?
A6: There are probably as many answers to this question as there are people, but I have seen some broad common themes.
The first reason is simply out of habit. In a lot of low-involvement categories, what shoppers end up buying is what they can readily recall in their minds, and what they can find in the store with the least effort. Daniel Kahneman calls this as “Thinking Fast” where people, by default, try to conserve mental energy by going for the easiest choice.
The second reason is a product or service offers a highly distinctive benefit. In a sea of cluttered options, there are times when a product offers a benefit so clearly irresistible and unique that people patronize it, or at least try it once. Technology is the epitome of this, when new phones or tablets offer much more functionality than previous generations. In laundry, the unit-dose pods that P&G has launched across developed markets has reignited shopper interest & category growth.
The third reason is that the product or service stands for an image that the person buying either feels he/she has, or that he/she would like to have. People have a hard time dealing with cognitive dissonance, so they want to be using products that are consistent with how they view themselves. For example, if someone in Silicon Valley views himself/herself as an environmentally-conscious liberal who appreciates refined style, and has the means, then he/she would likely buy a Tesla.
Q7: What insights have you personally culled that you are proudest of so far?
A7: I have had the privilege of working in an amazing company that puts consumer understanding at the heart of our strategic decision-making, so I have been fortunate to both find insights and get senior management to act on those insights.
There are a couple of examples that come to mind on insights that I have felt particularly fulfilled by. On Gillette, which I manage for the Philippines on-top of my Analytics & Insights responsibility, the team and I identified that young Filipino males are spending money on their Legit First moments (like Legit First Libre and Legit First Date), but not yet on their Legit First Razor. They are willing to spend this money, but just need to be jolted into realizing why a Legit First Razor is important. The ads are on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lp-TN_tAl-Y and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sxa4ntcdK7c. Another one is in partnership with our head of Marketing and a regional advertising expert, where we tried to codify what characteristics define the most successful advertising for the Philippines. This was exciting work that allowed me to look at a wide range of industries, not just our own. I have also done a lot of insighting work on shopper trends and how shopper behavior in-store will change based on broader societal changes. This is fulfilling work because the implications extend to our retail partners, beyond just our own portfolio.
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