Podcast: Febronia Ruocco on the value of insights during challenging times

In this episode of Now that’s Significant, we were joined by Febronia Ruocco, a Global Strategic Insights Director consultant, who has worked for a number of notable companies and brands such as Cadbury, Diageo, Heineken, McDonalds, Mars, and Heinz. She is incredibly passionate about empathic leadership of high performing teams and currently also a mentor for both Women in Research and the Durham University Leadership Academy. 

We discussed the vital role market research plays in turbulent times, and the importance of empathy and the human connection. We also discussed what organizations can do to help them lead their people from a strategic perspective.

In turbulent times we need to do our jobs better and be more curious. “People are having a really rough time,” shared Febronia. “In the UK, individuals are really struggling, and there’s a reliance on food banks and communities to really help and support one another. We haven’t known this type of hardship for many, many years.” Febronia continues by saying, “there’s a real need to understand—to be empathetic and sympathetic to it.”

“This is where market research and insights can make a real difference,” says Febronia. “Because by understanding all of these economic, societal, political variables and pulling it all together, we can really create a story. We can then understand where are the areas where we can make a difference with our brands and services.” Febronia continues by saying, “we need to make sure that the work we’re putting into these tests is really noteworthy, and that we’ve done the up-front work in the pipeline before. So not only choosing the most appropriate methodologies, but also being cost-effective by knowing when you need research and when you don’t.”

Market research has changed and is adapting to help us navigate through the world today. “Going online has definitely been advantageous in many ways,” shares Febronia. “We’re seeing a lot more coming up now through AI developments.” But she continues by saying, “I think a disadvantage is that we’re losing some of the human connection, and there are times when you do need a qualitative, in-person approach.” She shares, “I think the online tools offer the ability to cut across geographies, but I do think we still need a degree of empathy—the human touch is still needed. “You can glean more in a conversation than you can in an online questionnaire.”

She maintains that during difficult economic times, we do have to work harder. More than ever, organizations still need brilliant, talented people who can execute at a high level and provide influence and value to the business. From a strategic perspective, organizations should be helping create leaders at all levels, especially inside insights teams. 

“Communication is key, and making teams a part of the bigger strategic issues,” shares Febronia. “By being honest, embracing the whole team, and making them part of the problem, it creates a greater power to find the solution.” Market research needs to take its seat at the table by becoming more vocal and challenging the status quo when things aren't working by using the data we have at our fingertips. This can be uncomfortable for teams who are normally supportive and collaborative. She says, "If we are really doing our job and are on top of all those pieces of work and macro trends, we’re aware of what’s happening socioeconomically, then we have a voice, and we really need to use that voice to make a difference.” Febronia concludes by saying, “there’s great talent in our industry, and we need to get more adept at pulling that power together and working as a big cohesive team.”

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