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Podcast: Greg Stucky of InsightsNow Talks Consumer Behavior

Can nudging and disrupting consumer behavior bring delight? During his visit to our market research podcast, Greg Stucky of InsightsNow says yes - IF you have the right insights to drive innovation.

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On this episode of “Now That’s Significant”, Greg Stucky, Chief Research Officer at InsightsNow joins us to talk about innovation strategy  and the development of new methods, techniques and research services that inspire. His deep experience in the application of consumer behavior to product innovation has garnered industry attention and awards, with work featured in Harvard Business Review, The LA Times, ESOMAR World, and other industry publications. InsightsNow is a consumer research company that inspires successful innovation for a cleaner, healthier, happier world by bringing behavioral metrics and strategies to innovation teams. See below for some of the topics we covered during our interview.

Greg highlighted one very simple piece of information that successful innovation teams are using: the percentage of the population you will disrupt and the percentage you will nudge with your new innovation or message. He says it is critical to make a plan for how you want to change or leverage behavior in order to guide good decision making. Many leaders are doing this by gaining information through unique implicit / explicit testing methodologies, such as those offered by InsightsNow. 

InsightsNow was founded nearly 20 years ago because the team saw a massive chasm between how companies were running innovation programs, and what they saw playing out in the actual lives of consumers. Companies were focused on metrics which had little to nothing to do with a person’s actual choices or use behaviors. The company came up with new methodologies that would do a better job, ultimately, helping consumers lead healthier, happier, cleaner lives.

He shared an example to illustrate how this works in real life. “One of my favorite stories comes from a conversation I was having with a product developer who was working at DelMonte at the time. They had just launched fruit chillers, which is a frozen juice squeeze tube. I had seen the commercial where a pack of kids jump into a mom’s van after a soccer practice super noisy and rowdy and the mom hands them fruit chillers and all their heads freeze into big ice balls with giant smiles on their faces. It’s a funny commercial and knowing a bit of food science I teased him – about the brain freeze with juice, and he just shook his head and said, ‘I worked for four years to figure out how to make the ice crystals small so they wouldn’t give you brain freeze. Had I known they wanted to give everyone brain freeze we could have launched years ago and spent a lot less money.’ It’s a funny story – but in a way a sad example of what we still see happening all the time in innovation. Different teams with different areas of focus – and no one really focusing on the behavior they want the consumer to follow.” 

Greg said that to find a new way, they started with behavioral science, which had primarily occupied the academic realm and didn’t have a true focus on innovation.  No one was putting together the information in a way that would help you organize the knowledge or help you understand what metrics really were going to help you the most in a given situation. InsightsNow put together simple frameworks on how individuals make choices and what types of subconscious perceptions changed decisions. The framework was refined and integrated with  other types of data - from demographics, to time styles to ideals, to beliefs, attitudes and what we believe we ought or ought not do, to contexts and motivations and experiences and emotions and behaviors. Brought together in a “behavior pyramid” the insights help innovators have better structure to their data, and help them organize and identify what they are missing versus what they  already know. Greg says this helps streamline innovation because “you focus on what you still need, rather than re-inventing or re-gathering information all the time.” 

Primarily, the frameworks are used for training and design of research. These frameworks are the foundations – they are education and learning tools to make innovators smarter. They help diverse innovation teams come together on what is most important for a particular product or innovation so there is a consistency of focus. InsightsNow offers a wide range of frameworks to help innovation teams, such as: an emotions insights wheel; destinations and journeys; a habit flywheel specifically focused on CPG product innovation; and a modes of thinking framework, covering implicit, explicit and prospective thinking. Greg covers all these approaches in detail in the podcast, but particularly he dives into the last model. 

He describes what an  implicit / explicit test is doing with two systems: System 1 - the fast reactions and thinking our brain and muscles do – these are called implicit reactions; and System 2 - the slower, more thought out and considered thinking we do – these are called explicit reactions. While Implicit Association Tests have been around for many years, Greg says that they are really challenging to incorporate in research because you need so many questions to get to small pieces of knowledge. And most types of implicit testing give you general trends toward whether people react more implicitly to a certain stimulus. Researchers used traditional IAT and stimulus response approaches for years, but often they just were not that helpful. 

He explains where the shift happened: “The real ah-ha moment came when I was at a conference and I was listening to Bank of America talk about their innovation team working on improving the AI for processing checks at ATMs. The Innovation leader said that they were presenting the problem of processing millions of checks per day, when a team member spoke up and said – ‘actually that isn’t your problem to solve. You really need to figure out how to process one check perfectly.’ And that’s when it hit me that this was the same problem with all the implicit approaches being used. They tend to be focused on measuring patterns across all the consumers in the test, and what will be the tendency of a group, rather than understanding for that specific person, how they personally would react. Once we solved that, then we could deliver a metric that tells us exactly what percent of the population will be disrupted and what percent will be nudged. Knowing those percentages you then are able to align your cues to the behavior you want to see happen. And you can more clearly estimate the impact on the market.”

Knowing these percentages can help innovators know how many people will change their behavior and how many people will keep following the same behavior. For instance, top brands that people are using habitually may not want to suddenly introduce something that will disrupt that behavior and make their existing customers stop and consider other brands. But at the same time, these brands also need to drive additional value. Greg says “Let’s take the simple example of messaging. If you put out a message that disrupts habits that are making you money – you take the chance you will slow down purchases or make people consider other products. So while a message might be on-point and positive, if you disrupt people that is bad. If you took an approach like an agreement scale scoring for message testing, all you would learn is how many people agree with that message – but you don’t learn how many people connect so well that it drives their habits forward, and how many make them stop and think more rationally about their choice. You need the implicit / explicit test to get you that information. This is why innovation teams are using this test more and more – because you can put a well liked message out there and still lose share. Not because the message isn’t good, but because you picked a message that disrupted the behavior of your habitual users.” This same concept applies to new or smaller brands, with the opposite slant - they need to disrupt current habits. 

When it comes to the science behind this approach, Greg says to see the innovation center on the InsightsNow website. The innovation center houses a lot of information such as an ebook on different types of neuro techniques – including the implicit/explicit test, plus a set of case studies that show a lot of ways this can be applied within the innovation process and other resources. Listen to the full podcast to find out more! 

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