Episode 14: Why Your Brand Needs Small Data
Your brand needs small data.
Without it, you’re probably missing opportunities to gain key insights to inform your marketing decisions. You’re also probably not as customer centric as you’d like to be.
Small data allows you to glean insights that big data alone can’t give you. By spending time with your customers, you’ll understand the nuances of their decision making behaviors.
Small data also allows you to stay empathetic. Business has become very rational. The way we think about customers has become very rational. We’ve lost the emotion and intuitiveness about our customers that only comes from seeing them.
Big data can help you identify trends, while small data helps you dig deeper into those trends to develop a more intimate, and holistic understanding of who your customer are.
Read the Transcript
John Rougeux: Hi everyone and welcome to another episode of people in places, a podcast that’s all about helping you improve the visitor experience. I’m John Rougeux. Our guest for today is pip stocks who is CEO and founder of a brand inside agency called it brand hook based in Melbourne, Australia. Pip has over 20 years of experience of working with brands across the world. She’s a contributor to see m o magazine and she’s a regular speaker on customer experience, brand advocacy and customer behavior. Now you’ve probably heard plenty about big data, but today pip’s going to talk to us about something called small data. It’s a technique that brands of all kinds are using to develop a better understanding of who their customers are, so if you’re curious to hear about what your brand might be missing out on, if you’re not complimenting your data strategy with small data, this episode is for you. Hi Pat. Thanks for being on the show today,
Pip Stocks: Thanks John. It’s a, we’re a long way away from each other.
John Rougeux: Yeah, we are, but it certainly doesn’t sound like it. Yeah. We’ve, you know, we’ve had a chance to talk a little bit of course before this interview and I know you’ve got some pretty interesting stories to tell about the customer experience. There’s one I want to hear about a beer brand that you work with and I’m going to ask you that later, but before we dive into that, can you tell us a little bit more about yourself and what you’re up to at brain hook?
Pip Stocks: Yeah, definitely. So brand tool gives a customer experience and brand experience consultancy or agency. We help a lot of our clients love that. Clients come to us with problems. So then most brands at some point in their experience have an issue that is an ongoing issue or it might be just something that’s popped up, but they usually come to us when there’s a problem and they don’t really, they might have a few hypotheses about why that that’s going on, but they don’t necessarily know how to find the answer. So they’ll come to us to help them find those answers. And we generally start understanding, well it will, looking at what’s the customer view because sometimes the hypotheses that they’ve created isn’t always right. So sometimes we even find out that that was an interesting hypotheses, but the real problem, the real answer to the problem or the real problem might be this. And therefore here is the strategy to solve that problem. So that’s really where it asks suites bodies. We deal with big brands and customer problems. We then go on to do some optimization of those problems so we can track how those fixes are going and that we also do with a bit of work internally. So culture work with teams to help them become more intimate with our customers. So to develop a real intimacy and understanding of their customers. So intuitively they know how to solve problems or to fix customer experiences along the way.
John Rougeux: Good deal. Yeah, it gets some more experiences. Such a broad topic and there’s a lot of smart people working in this space and certainly you’re one of them. And I want to hear this, that story you you told me about a week or two ago because I think it’s such a great example of what customer experience means in terms of looking at it, a hypothesis, testing it and then understanding what the few are right or wrong about what customers are thinking and how they behave. So can you maybe it kind of sets the stage for today’s conversation. Can you tell me the story that we talked about where there was this, I think it was a light beer of of Ra light, brand of beer and the brain had some ideas about why people weren’t drinking it. Can you elaborate on that?
Pip Stocks: Yeah, so I mean there’s a couple of examples I can give you, but there’s a retail store I can tell you about in a minute as well. But I suppose this was a good one because it’s one of them most recent stories. And the client came to us, we regularly do their work and they came to us with a hypotheses that men weren’t drinking this low carb beer in pubs and they felt that men weren’t doing it because they were embarrassed. Now they had formed that hypotheses by looking at some of their big data and some of the numbers and you know there was a decline in drinking this kind of beer in a social environment and not in home. So not drinking it at home. We stay nights or at home in their own home, but really what was going on in bars and pubs.
Pip Stocks: So we went about putting together a program where we effectively went drinking with the blokes in bars because we really believe in that what we call small data. We can go on to talk about that in a minute. And after having a few beers with a number of men, the whole as a team, and we found out that it wasn’t actually embarrassment driving the decline in purchase, it was actually the fact that these men couldn’t be bothered telling the story about why they were drinking a low carb beer. Because when you’re out with, you’ve made so you haven’t been a good time, you just kind of, there was a bit of banter and they just want to kind of create that kind of bantery conversation. And it wasn’t an environment where these men wanted to, you know, go into an explain the story behind why they would show no choosing this particular beer.
Pip Stocks: So interestingly, that has formed now the basis of the communications campaign and also how they now going to at the BIA because you know, had they gone out with, don’t be embarrassed, they would’ve missed the mark. But now that they’re going, you know, the opportunity is to go out and say it’s a good story to tell that story. It’s a completely different approach. So that’s probably a good example is building hypotheses from that big data. But actually going out and understanding face to face, voice to voice, be a Tibia in this case, what’s going on. And really finding that kind of nuance. Cause that’s really all it was. It was really a nuance about what was going on in that environment. And then the only way to Glean Nash is really that kind of conversation, the face to face customer conversations. And it’s, you don’t find that in the big data.
John Rougeux: Yeah, that’s right. You mentioned a couple of terms or you mentioned big data of course. And then a few moments ago you mentioned this term that was new to me until I started talking with you recently called small data. And so we hear about big data a lot in, in the news and the tech blogs and such. But yeah, we don’t hear much about small data. And I’d love to hear a little bit more about what that is and why brands should care about it.
Pip Stocks: Yeah, I mean we really small diner I suppose is that a, is when you do go out to your customers and you get kind of involved in their lives. So, you know, we would spend time opening, peep going to people’s homes and I even their wardrobes and looking at the clothes that they have there and getting them, for example, to say, you know, show us an outfit that you feel really good in. So they, you know, they might bring me out, sit out, and then you can cry on, you know, what it is it, what is it about that outfit? And then you get those great stories that people might tell you about when I wore the outfit, you know, I won an award or where when I wore the ms pair of jeans, I’ve pulled my girlfriends, you know, or, or I don’t know if that’s an American term, but I found myself, sorry, what was the term?
Pip Stocks: I don’t, I don’t, I’m not, must be just an Australia and being, but when you pull someone and say, oh, it sounds fairly anyway, maybe we can edit that out. But basically when you, you know, you find the love of your life and you found the love of your life wearing those pair of jeans. So that pair of jeans, you know, I might, you know, have a real emotional connection because it meant something to them sir, to sign when it’s assigned. When you open someone’s fridge, you know, and they’ve told you in the big data, it says, I only drink, you know, French champagne and you open the fridge and you can see, you know, that there’s, there’s no French champagne. In fact, there’s a kind of crappy sparkling wine for example. And so then you can, we can actually probe on that and say, well actually, you know, you told risks in the numbers that you were a French champagne drinker.
Pip Stocks: There’s no French champagne. Let’s talk about why that is. So, you know, that’s the small data or even to the point where you can look at someone’s room and you can start to see the peaches on the walls and you know, the money that they’re spending on different items or not spending. And we can start to build a picture of what’s important to them just by looking at what’s happening in their lives as well. And that’s why we signed a small data becomes very important. You can pick up on and it’s amazing. It’s amazing what you can pick up from someone’s fridges, you know? You know how on the front lines of fridges, you know, families for example might have a calendar or a sticker or an award that their son or daughter may have got at school, you know, or an empty fridge, a fridge that’s not got any awards on it. You know, all of those messages really interesting and they’re, it seems that way. I’m really powerful when you’re really looking at wanting to grow your brand because they’re the things that will really drive proper insight.
John Rougeux: So you mentioned that example of the, the champagne buyer and there was, it sounded like you were kind of getting at a difference between intent or at least with the data would indicate someone might do and then actual behavior. So is that really where small data comes into play is kind of measuring the difference between like intent and actual behavior or is it a little bit
Pip Stocks: broader than that? I think that’s one thing that I can do. You can definitely no cash that. But you know, for example, if your, if your, and this was a great example I was in, I was talking to a young guy about this suit and he was telling me about a suture that he had and that he had and he described it in the most amazing way. I feel great in that it really fits me. You know, it’s the suit I wear when I got one to go to the nightclubs and feel special and I want to make an impression. And I said, okay, cool. Now show me that suit. Any, any pulled the suit out of his wardrobe. And I looked at that suit and I thought that that suit looks old. It’s appealing, it’s got threads hanging off it, you know, it’s not a suit that I would use to describe, I wouldn’t have described it in that way, but the way he described it, he’s face change.
Pip Stocks: I could see the emotion that was attached to that suit and why it was so important to him now that told me so much about this guy. And then looking at the suit, there was a total disconnect, but it didn’t matter because he felt the way he felt about that suit. So that was what was so powerful and that’s I think what small data does. You know, you can have someone tell you something and then you can look at it and think, Oh God, that’s not what I would say about that soon. But it’s really his emotion that’s attached to that that told us so many things about how we needed to talk to him and what, you know, what kind of clothes we needed to build and create to market to him. You know, what kind of new categories do we need to move into to help that guy feels special in all of those occasions, you know?
John Rougeux: Sure, sure. Is that kind of a pass that most brands go down, they started with big data to, you know, look at some trends, develop some hypotheses, and then they’ll dive into small data to kind of validate and explore this further? Or is it, is it a not so clear cut?
Pip Stocks: No, I think that’s really the formula that we would recommend as well. So we would often say, well lets you know, again, they’ll come to us with an issue, well at what’s currently going on, let’s have a review of what you’ve already got in the house. So what’s the data saying, you know, where are the trends, who’s doing what according to the numbers. And then we will pull out some hypotheses and then we can actually go and talk to some of these people face to face to explore in more detail. Whether that, why that numbers declined or why that number is stagnant or why one tribe is interested in something and the other tribe isn’t or why, you know, customers are falling out, you know, in one part of the service experience, why customer complaints are on the rise. Like you know, they’re all the facts but really tweet to understand why those things are happening. That’s when you need to get voice to voice, face to face, you know, intimate.
John Rougeux: So it sounds like without big data, if you just pursued small daily, there’s probably too many things you’d be left exploring that weren’t valuable or were kind of dead ends. So it sounds like both of them are, are necessary and really kind of compliment each other in a way.
Pip Stocks: Yeah, absolutely. I think a compliment each other. I mean I think our frustration is there’s been such a huge investment in the big data we most brands that the, that the business has become very rational and the way that they’re thinking about their customers is become very rational. And what we’ve lost a little bit is that emotion and intuitiveness about your customers that you can only really have when you see them. Like you know, customer intimacy or customer sent, the most powerful customer centric businesses or successful ones are the ones that care. They have true empathy for their customers and you don’t develop empathy by looking at a number. The number is vital to help you frame a discussion, but it’s the empathy that actually connects you properly to a customer. And unless you are in this space, in their world talking to them about the things that are important to them, you really, empathy is very hard to form.
John Rougeux: So how do you validate that those insights you get from those one on one conversations is really intimate settings. How do you validate that that’s actually indicative of the whole, like that example you were telling me about earlier, how were you able to get confident that that group of guys you were talking to? Just like the more representative of other male beer drinkers and those guys just weren’t a one off.
Pip Stocks: Yeah, that’s right. I think this is the biggest misconception about small data is it isn’t it? It’s an art and a science. I can tell you about the platform we’re building in a minute that really will help people understand the art and science. But it is both. There is, there’s rigor with small data. So we would say you need to hear something like that a minimum of 10 times to understand that it’s insane. And the key is all in the analysis process. So you might have a number of people going out having the same conversation. So again, that’s another part of the rigor, the formula on how to build the discussion by starting wise and getting pointy at the end. Having a number of people going out and having the same conversations with the same tribe. Everybody pulling themselves back into her room to say, okay, you know, did you hear that?
Pip Stocks: Did you hear that? Did you hear that? Yes. You know? So if you’ve heard that 10 times then that’s you know, worth exploring because it feels like a theme. So what, what we would do then is build up these insights based on them being sematic and then if we need to pursue it further to get validation, then you drop back into the numbers and you actually ask a bigger group of people, okay, we’ve actually found this out in the small data. Let’s formulate that into some kind of quantitative measurement and really work out whether that’s, you know, how many people feel like that as well. So you use the, it’s almost like the small data is the kind of inbetween bits. So the, you know, whatever’s going on currently will help build the hypotheses from the big data that you’ve currently got. Then the small data enables, use your kind of work out why that’s going on and then you can drop back into the big data and create a new new set of questions to ask a broader sample based on what we’ve learned. Does this get the numbers behind that insight? And then everybody’s got the confidence to move forward with them.
John Rougeux: Okay. So it’s not just a like a one step move. Where are you going from? Big Data, small data, and then you’re done. There’s, there’s a back and forth between big data, small data, some analysis in between and, and a, a lot of kind of back and forth. It’s more like a cycle it sounds like. Then just a kind of a linear step that has a fixed a fixed conclusion.
Pip Stocks: Well, I think the best companies in most successful partnerships we’ve had have been three or four years with businesses that have gone, that have done exactly that. They’ve built hypotheses, you know, they’re continuously talking to their customer, you know, through, there’s a lot of different ways you can do that, but they’re continually having that discussion and they continually dropping in on the, you know, experimenting with some of those insights and testing whether they’re working or just dropping back into the corn to say, okay, this is a big enough piece of thinking we need to invest back into the numbers to see how many people will change their behavior on the basis of this new move.
John Rougeux: Yeah, yeah. You, you know, you mentioned in a previous conversation that in many ways big data is easier or maybe more comfortable is probably a better word to use for some, because I
John Rougeux: think the phrase you used was like some brands do they, they just don’t want to talk to me. But it’s easier to kind of sit in the office and look at data and it can be harder. Maybe not technically, but maybe for other reasons to go out and actually talk to people. Is that a real trends you’re seeing and if so, like what do you think that is?
Pip Stocks: I think there’s a couple of things. I think, I think there’s a lack of understanding on what that small data can deliver. I think again, you know, understanding that there is science to the [inaudible], there’s a lot of rigor attached to understanding the things that you’re seeing. I think that’s probably the first thing. So I think people need to understand what small data really delivers. It requires effort. And I think sometimes people in businesses can get caught up in caught up in the work that they’re doing. So the big data is an easier way of unearthing some views about customers. Creating small data can be a little harder. We do have to make the effort, you do have to invest time and energy and your customers is by talking to them. And I think some people might find that hard. And I think yeah, it, it does require a top down change in the relationship that you have with your customers.
Pip Stocks: So it’s gotta be something that’s come from the board or the leadership team that actually spending time with the customer is very important. I mean, I don’t know how much you know about what’s going on with Australian culture at the moment, but we’ve had a number of royal commissions, one particularly large one with the banking sector and we’re seeing in Australia a decline in customer trust with some of these big brands because you know it’s been, there’s been uncommon to be handling their customers irresponsibly and actually quite illegally and his fines and there’s seconds and there’s all sorts of things that are going on here at the moment and we, the conversations we’re having with some of these businesses is that if you don’t have that kind of personal understanding of the customer, you don’t realize the impact of some of these things that you’re doing.
Pip Stocks: So if you don’t know that, you know, Mary who has a mortgage and he’s working very long hours to put his kids through school and pay the mortgage and the impact of actually overcharging her, even if it’s $100 a year, if you don’t understand that because you haven’t actually invested the energy to talk to Mary, then these are the things that happen. You know, you put in practices that may not be kind to the customer or you may not have even thought through the impact for a particular customer time. And I suppose that that is a cultural shift and I think we’re seeing those shifts in businesses now that they are really understanding that, you know, Ron, not only can we be in a lot of trouble because we’re putting things in place that are immoral and illegal, but it’s probably just not that nice to do that to somebody. And you’ve really got to care about your customers to understand the impact of what you do and don’t do.
John Rougeux: Yeah, and that’s a great point. If the team feels really empowered and encouraged to have those conversations from the top, then it’s the most fun. I like that that’s going, that’s going to happen. But if the culture itself does it really value that kind of qualitative data, man isn’t prepared to make decisions based on that data. And you know, someone can go out and and do a bunch of in person interviews and get a lot of that small data you talked about. But it, it won’t really go anywhere. And I think you mentioned even in one case a brand that you work with, they even brought customers into the boardroom so people at the highest level of the company could really get a firsthand sense of, of the people you’re trying to serve and what they were dealing with. Can you tell me a little bit more about that?
Pip Stocks: Yeah, we’ve done a lot of that work. So again, kind of in our culture space where we’re creating a number of products to, you know, just make it easy for businesses to have these conversations. You know, some things we’ve done is we’ve bought 10 customers into a room of 30 bankers, the bankers all the time in there. So it’s hilariously and the customers all came in there trying to send James Cause that’s kind of normal life. And you know, we kind of set it up so that we started the conversation and then we went out to the group and said, you know, he ask a question and we had talked to them about how to ask a question beforehand cause that’s obviously key had a frame that question. So you’re genuinely getting good insight out of that. And it was fantastic because the customers love the experience of sharing their views and the people in the business who don’t get to see customers very often love sharing.
Pip Stocks: I love hearing their views firsthand because they can start to write down what we call their own wow moments. We’ve done it in boardrooms recently we took six customers into a board meeting for utility company. And you think talking about water might be, you know, a pretty dry, sorry to say that it’s a pun, but it might be a relatively boring topic to talk about water and how that’s delivered to your house. But interestingly there was a whole lot of a discussion around sustainability and what their expectation was from the business and brand more as a corporate citizen. So the chair of that board meeting and the chair of that board was amazed at how the expectations that these customers had of her business and how she needed to behave with them. You know, we have a product we’re developing called hearsay, which is a tech platform that will help businesses have their own customer conversations.
Pip Stocks: So rather than employee, you know, brand hook to do that for $2,000 a, they can go out to, you know, kind of under $200 and go and have their own customer conversations. But they’ve got in our tool and a platform to do that that will, you know, help them recruit. It will help. It will build a discussion guide that will help them with their high policies, policies. You will be able to record during the platform and you’ll get some key insights through the platform as well. So we’re developing that as a way of helping some of these businesses have these conversations on their own. Because you know in retail we talked to match chains or product designers and they are desperate to talk to customers about what they’re wearing and what’s in their wardrobe. But I don’t necessarily know how to do it. So we’re hoping with this do it yourself products, we can get more people talking to customers so that more people will care and more people will have that true empathy needed to create a got a great customer experience.
John Rougeux: What was the name of that tool again?
Pip Stocks: It’s called, he say, so a h. E. A. R. S. A. Y. You listeners can read about it. We’re just going to landing page at the moment it’s called [inaudible]. It’s a tsa.io and that’s a product we’re building over the next three to six months and that will be ready to go to market. It’s kind of closer towards the end of the year. But you know we’ve got, we’ve got people experimenting with it now and it’s in trial. So we’ve got a low five version that’s being tested at the moment with a number of different clients.
John Rougeux: Good deal. Hearsay dot. Io. I know you have another tool that you want to tell us about as well. It’s called the brand hook challenge. How does that work?
Pip Stocks: Yeah, so again, if you don’t know whether your business is equipped to be customer centric or whether you’re even thinking about the customer in the right way, you can take the brand hook challenge. It’s really an assessment tool. You can go through, I think it’s, I don’t know, 25 questions. It’s relatively quick. Probably takes you about five to seven minutes and you can basically go through and we ask you a number of questions related to customer days, socialization of that data to the culture of the business. And we will send you a, an assessment of a know how well your business is set up to be customer centric and then we can have a conversation with various businesses to understand how to fill the gaps basically.
John Rougeux: Okay, great. So this is kind of an initial self assessment that I bring, can take to start learning about where they are and then it kind of sets them up to have conversation and talk about exploring that. That program. Yeah. Cool. If someone wants to take a look at that tool, where can they find it? It’s just a brand hook.com and if you go to the top of the top of the pack first page, it’s called the brand hook challenge. Okay, good deal. Well we’ll include a link to that in the show notes as well. Cool. Yeah, lots of great advice. City on customer experience on big data and small data. I like to ask all of our guests if they have a favorite author, podcasts book or other resource that they recommend. And for you that would be about customer experience. So what are your recommendations there?
Pip Stocks: The one, the, the book I love is, it is called small data and it’s written by Martin Lindstrom and it’s really tells us a story about many, many case studies about how getting face to face with customers cannot if huge trends. And he talks about these idea of tiny clues that uncover huge trends and that’s really our swing and have passion. There’s another one called ethnography for marketers, which is again the way that we practice talking to customers in an ethnographic manner. That’s a really good book about, you know, again going out and speaking to people face to face. It’s really a guide to understand consumer emersion. And again, that’s another great book that I would recommend to raid as well if you really passionate about understanding customer customers and and, and what’s going on in their lives.
John Rougeux: Right. Good deal. So we’ve got small data and we’ve got ethnography for marketers. Okay, cool. We talked a little about brands in the retail space and the consumer product space today, but I think it’s worth mentioning that a lot of the discussion we’ve had today, it doesn’t just apply to retail. It really applies to any situation where a brain is interacting with the customer, whether that’s online, offline, whether they’re still passenger, a visitor, a tourist, you know, people have to understand people that they’re, they’re trying to serve and pairing big data and small data together is a great way to do that. Kind of regardless of context.
Pip Stocks: Yeah. I mean we work across category from beer and wine, water utilities to banking to, but I mean it’s, you know, category agnostic. So it doesn’t matter what you’re trying to do, it’s actually how you’re trying to build a business and satisfy a very old fashion term. Having studies to marketing is satisfy customer need and it’s not, it’s not something you hear very often, but you know, what are your benefits? What’s your proposition? What’s your USP? What’s the thing that you deliver that’s going to make the lives of your customers? And I love that word you just used serving customers cause I don’t think that that’s necessarily how most business people think that it is actually how you should think. Because ultimately you’re delivering something to a customer and you’re serving that customer. And I think it’s a lovely way to think about how to think about your customers and how to deliver something to them. Yeah, I think that’s a lovely word.
John Rougeux: Oh, thanks. Yeah. Well, I, I couldn’t agree more. I, I’ve probably learned that the hard way and marketing, if, you know, if you try to just sell things without really understanding who you’re trying to help and it’s expanded dispatch for them, so you’re only doing yourself a favor if you look at to your potential buyers as people you’re trying to serve is ultimately, if you’re doing something that’s valuable, you’re helping someone and it’s just a matter of helping them see that and, and find the thing that’s right for them.
Pip Stocks: Yeah, that’s right. I mean, you know, I suppose everyone’s just trying to do their best, you know, and whether it’s the market or as a brand or it’s a founder or a consultant or an agency like us, you know, we’re all just trying to kind of do our best and I think to do your best by your customers is a lovely way and lovely mindset to have when you’re trying to grow your business.
John Rougeux: Well, on that note tip of what’s the best way for listeners to get in touch with you and talk a little bit more about that,
Pip Stocks: email me at [inaudible] at brand hook.com you can find me on Twitter at pips stocks or on Linkedin if you just search stocks and also, you know, check out here, say dot I o as a potential platform for your business to your own people, to have these small data conversations in a, you know, I kind of do it yourself. Smell
John Rougeux: sounds good. I really enjoyed the conversation with you today. It was a real pleasure. Thank you so much for being on the show.
Pip Stocks: Thank heavens. Thank you so much for inviting me. Maybe next time we need to be face to face.
John Rougeux: All right. I’m up for 90 I always need to come back to Australia and I’ve yet to been B to a you have to come to Melbourne.
Pip Stocks: Oh, see, I was thinking maybe I’ll come to the state either. Hey, let’s do both. Maria, thank you so much, Sean. All right, take care.
John Rougeux: Well, that wraps up this episode of people in places. This show is produced by our team at sky fi where we’re helping physical venues measure, predict, and influence visitor behavior of both offline and online. You can review people in places on Apple podcasts and to get notified of new episodes, just follow sky fi on linkedin or subscribe to our newsletter at [inaudible] Dot Com that’s s k y f i.com. I’m John Rougeux. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next time.
People in Places is a podcast dedicated to helping today’s shopping centers, retail outlets, airports, museums, universities, and other physical locations optimize the experience of their visitors. Get in-touch: firstname.lastname@example.org. See all current episodes on our website here.
- You can connect with Pip at email@example.com, on Twitter, and LinkedIn.
- Learn more about Brandhook, and the BradHook challenge at their website.
- Hearsay is a tech platform from BrandHook that helps businesses have their own customer conversations.
- Small Data: The Tiny Clues That Uncover Huge Trends by Martin Lindstrom
- Ethnography for Marketers: A Guide to Consumer Immersion by Hy Mariampolski