Author: Jonathan La Greca
VP Strategic Growth, Hotspex

With companies facing disruption and fears of being acquired by private equity firms, consumer insights leaders are being asked to do more with reduced budgets and fewer resources.

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of sitting in on a university alumni summit presentation by Jeanine Basset, VP of Global Consumer Insights at General Mills, as she shared her wisdom on how insights leaders can manage to do more with less.

Jeanine shared three tangible ways insights leaders can manage their perspective and approach in the face of change and adversity:

1. Reframe budget cuts

As we continue to look for growth in the face of zero-based budgeting or resource and budget cuts, it’s not uncommon to look at the future through a lens of scarcity, and it’s easy to take these cuts personally.

The key is to reframe this perspective, recognizing that while insights leaders may be facing smaller budgets than in previous years, there are much smaller niche competitors that have made inroads into categories and won share with much smaller budgets and resource loads. What can we learn from them? How can we reframe our perspective and demonstrate grit by focusing on the opportunities we have available to us instead of allowing obstacles to distract us from finding new avenues to grow our businesses? In any business challenge, adopting a mindset of abundance instead of scarcity leads to different outcomes.

2. Build a diversified knowledge portfolio

As insights leaders, it is natural for us to want to conduct research. We look to exciting new methodologies and the fresh insights we garner from them to inform important strategic decisions.

That said, Jeanine shared a fantastic framework to assess how much fresh, new research is required when faced with a new business question. The framework of “I know – we know – don’t know” explores three different knowledge bases to approach a new business challenge.

The first knowledge base, “I know”, represents the intuition that the insights team and their cross-functional colleagues hold based on their collective experience. The second knowledge base, “we know”, refers to all the knowledge that can be ascertained by digging into the existing research library (or in many cases the research “cemetery”), as well as anything that is available online and in the public domain. The final knowledge base, “don’t know”, consists of insight that can only be acquired through new research.

Jeanine suggested that the context of the business question at hand also affects how much you rely on each of these three knowledge bases. For example, when you combine a low level of knowledge with a high-risk project, you should likely invest in additional “don’t know” research. On the contrary, when business teams have a high level of “I know” and “we know” knowledge and aren’t facing a risky business question, it may signal “GEMO” or “good enough, move on”.

3. Fight for your seat at the executive table

It is also important for consumer insights leaders to ensure they have access to the decision-making aperture. Again, mindset plays an important role in success, as insights leaders need to let go of any defensive and protectionist sentiment and harbor an inclusive culture that invites stakeholders from other functions, as well as the executive team, into the life of the consumer. While introducing new and varying opinions into the decision-making process can create complexity and tension, the key is to be clear on who the ultimate decision maker is and recognize that you don’t always have to compromise and manage for consensus. It is fine for a team to disagree, as long everyone commits to moving forward as a unified team once the discussion is done, each doing their part to increase the chances of success on the path in which they are headed.

In closing, as organizations continue to pursue growth amidst rapidly changing times, it is up to us as insights leaders to reframe our positions to go beyond conducting research and, ultimately, to be the leaders and stewards of knowledgeable and insightful decision-making.


About Hotspex: Voted among the top global insights consultancies for 4 years in a row, Hotspex is working with 15 of Top 20 advertisers in over 30 countries to apply cutting-edge behavioral and marketing sciences. We apply System 1 implicit and System 2 explicit measurement in a holistic manner to uncover conscious and non-conscious drivers to understand WHY consumers behave the way they do.

From there, we apply marketing sciences, including the Laws of Growth, to help marketers determine HOW to apply consumer understanding to accelerate brand growth across a variety of brand strategy, communications, and shopper-based design challenges.


* Special thanks to Jeanine Basset, VP of Global Consumer Insights at General Mills, for delivering such a meaningful and insightful talk.