Quant Vs. Qual With Sam Deutsch

by Mitch Turck

Our latest episode of the Question Authority podcast features Sam Deutsch of Anheuser-Busch InBev, talking to us about quantitative vs. qualitative data.

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Mitch (00:00): Welcome to Question Authority, where the best and brightest marketers teach brands about the art and science of questions. Today, we're asking about quant vs qual with Same Deutsch.

Mitch (00:14): Hey, Sam. How's it going, man?

Sam (00:32): Doing good. Doing good.

Matt (00:33): We chatted... It's probably a year ago, maybe.

Mitch (00:35): Oh yeah, you guys already met. I forgot. I already kind of introed you guys.

Sam (00:39): Because I think it was maybe September. Yeah.

Matt (00:41): Pre-pandemic.

Sam (00:43): Tracking time right now, it's just impossible to know where and when we are anymore.

Mitch (00:48): Right... when am I? Yeah.

Mitch (00:51): So what are we talking about today, Sam?

Sam (00:54): For me, it was just a matter of... again, I'm trying to link this back and be supportive of the cause here. Cause I understand it's about not just "collect data", but actually have an understanding of these consumers. Or for me, it's understanding their motivations and I can't get that just from behavioral data.

Sam (01:11): I'm definitely in this space that is supposed to be killing the qualitative industry. But at the same time, I'm a firm believer that you need to have the right mix of both quantitative and qualitative. And I think brands are struggling to figure out how they keep some of their traditional insights workflow and modernize that. There's a lot of pressure to modernize that approach. And to the traditional agencies, that sounds like a threat.

Sam (01:36): And they're all trying to get into this data game, but the reality is we still have a strong place to have connections with consumers that link back to... well, you guys have it listed as zero-party data on the sheet, I call it 1st party data. But the best approach is the unification of these workflows and not necessarily saying, "One overtakes the other."

Sam (01:57): Pretty much where insights is going, to me, is that it's becoming CRM. Your strongest network for insights and consumer connections can be your CRM, or your research agencies that do what they've had for years, which are these communities, these panels... that's just they've been doing CRM, just for a specific purpose. Instead of selling product, it's been to garner connections and insights. So to continue that connection over time requires you to have that digital identity piece. That's where we're trying to play. That's where Anheuser-Busch is trying to move.

Sam (02:31): And I feel for our insights partners... it's really that we're saying, their business model can adjust to rely on their strengths, rely on what they've built over time. And now they can take advantage of a lot of the digital ecosystems and those advancements in processing power and data capture. That's where they need to move.

Matt (02:52): Totally.

Sam (02:54): Is that the whole podcast?

Mitch (02:55): Yep. Nice work, okay.

Matt (02:56): Pretty much just hit it right on the head. So there you go.

Matt (03:00): Whenever we last talked, I'm not sure our direction, but we're in the process of rolling out essentially this product or feature within Fairing called Question Streams. There's a question engine that essentially shows the next question to the user based on a slew of parameters. And we're positioning it, kind of as you said, an insights flow.

Sam (03:19): The tool you're talking about, and not necessarily having seen it, I think understanding those rules as to what questions you ask what people and why, if that can be driven by their actual behaviors more so than just what they say in a survey as well, and combine the two... Because that's what we're trying to get. Because what somebody does and what somebody say they do are always going to be challenged.

Sam (03:37): They might not perfectly align, but I can't get to motivation. If I had eight data scientists in a room with a massive amount of data from something like this platform and sales data and all that kind of stuff and behavioral data, it's how do we start to interpret motivation of engagement with the brand, of purchase of a brand, of going back through the funnel with the brand. Because we get motivation generally just from asking people questions, but at the same time, we have no idea how to link that back to if it's valid. And we make that assumption and that impacts thousands and millions of dollars in media spend. So that's I think the holy grail challenge at play, potentially. Using ecosystems that already exist, whether it's CRM, whether it's even just call centers and what you have, to be viewed as less of just a marketing function, just to drive conversion, and more along your insight inspiration.

Sam (04:32): I keep telling our brands that they need to think about their website as their number one insights tool. They're not designing their websites to learn, they're designing their websites to sell, which makes a lot of sense, but there's a way that we can do both. And I think the both is where you'll have winning brands in the future. The brands that every interaction a consumer has provides an opportunity for them to connect back. But there should never be a touchpoint that ends in a, "Okay, we've done our job."

Mitch (04:58): It's seemingly kind of passe, I think at this point, even separate quant and qual data because it's just so much more about utility and accessibility and portability and that kind of stuff. But I guess I'm interested in that dynamic, if you have any thoughts on where the industry is going or just generally your thoughts on quant versus qual and if that's even a valid phrase.

Sam (05:20): Well, I think what's funny is that, Mitch, when you hear people choosing between qual and quant, it's usually a pricing decision. It's usually just a function of budget and time. So how they can think about that, that it can be melded together in a fashion that is quick, easily affordable, and gets the same quality of insights that it used to 5, 10, 20 years ago, that's what marketers I think are looking for.

Mitch (05:42): Yeah, that's a really interesting take. To your point, there is so much that you can do just by being an engaging brand digitally. Whether it's your website or your Instagram feed or whatever the case may be, or whatever micro-sites and other interactive experiences you can build.

Sam (05:58): In terms of total touchpoints, a company like mine, a company like Unilever or P&G or L'Oreal, we have billions of touchpoints with consumers a day. They just happened to be, to your point, non-digital. They happen to be on-shelf or they can't be tracked. We talk about linear TV, we talk about out-of-home. The scale is there, it's just putting together the pieces to say, "How are D2C companies going to start acting more like the big players and how are the big players starting to more act like a D2C company?"

Matt (06:28): It's all meeting at a focal point, which is kind of funny, and I don't think people really get that. But D2C and all of these more larger legacy brands are going to essentially be very similar in five years. Much more similar than they are today.

Sam (06:41): Right. Full-funnel marketing is truly just understanding how your touchpoints link together across your marketing ecosystem, that ultimately can influence conversion at the bottom. And historically for many CPGs, that's trade marketing. But the linkage of that, potentially back to your big equity campaign or your big loyalty campaign or things of that nature, hasn't always been there.

Mitch (07:03): You just brought up a good point about trade marketing and CPG. So for folks who aren't really familiar... Well, I won't even get into the trade marketing details. But my thought that kinda raised was, for retail brands in general, it's not just this new frontier of trying to interact with customers, but that so much of trade marketing and stuff that's happening at point of purchase to get consumer feedback is incentivized through discounts.

Mitch (07:31): "Will you do this in exchange for paying less money for the thing that we already know you want?" It's just the hammer that everyone was using when you didn't have a strong access to a customer. And in that way, it's like a new frontier for all of these retail brands to say, "Oh, we can actually engage with customers in a way that doesn't require us to devalue our product."

Sam (07:56): If you're shifting just from coupons to maybe contests, that's a change, but eventually all brands, and you think about brands that have been stacking up on their CRM teams or their data teams and things of that nature, we're all trying to figure out how do you build always on content approaches that, again, connects with consumers in a way that they would want to participate with you. Knowing that the scale there is not going to be your Superbowl audience, but a potentially very lucrative and valuable group of consumers that you can learn from, that you can win with, and maybe even if you get to the point, co-create with you.

Sam (08:32): Obviously, doing that in beer versus doing that for... And no offense to my past employers, but doing that for mayonnaise is very different theme. And Anheuser-Busch is in a good place that we have a real ability to win.

Matt (08:46): I'm not going to say the name of the brand, but there's this hardcore water brand that I'm sure a lot of people have heard, and their survey response rates are astronomical compared to our average. And I think part of that is just their brand and the community that they're building with their product. So it's this combination of vertical, yes, category beer, obviously high, passionate consumers behind that. But also on the brand side... And I don't have the answer to this, but in their sense, it's almost how outrageous are you that people react to it that gets a really high opt-in for that customer feedback. And other more quantitative elements that could help steer a marketing and advertising budget, more so a brand budget.

Matt (09:24): People ask us all the time, how do we increase survey completion rates? And outside of the norm of increasing the speed in which the survey loads, there's limiting survey responses, inference on the wording. But then the last harder factor's make a brand that consumers are more excited to engage with.

Sam (09:43): Simple, little ask. Well, I think in market research we've all been ingrained over the years. So much that you have to get professional assistance to get the questions out before they go public. Because you want the research to be pure, you don't want it to be meddled. But to your point, Matt, it's like, "How can we use our brand's tone of voice?" I'm all for thinking about how you can be more engaging in terms of what questions you ask or how you ask them, in line with also what groups of people you're going out to ask these questions to.

Sam (10:12): How are you using audience segmentation? Not just for media channels and addressable audiences, but how are you using that to dissect who you're speaking to when you're asking consumers questions and why? Just like we always say, the creative and the audience together will dictate a lot of how advertising works. The same could be... And I'll rely, Matt, on your guidance here. But at the same could be probably for questionnaires. And if that's the way to get response rate up, beyond asking for incentives, being creative, having visually appealing content, and also doing it to understanding personalization in some way or regards to what questions you ask to who and why and what they're more likely to be inclined to say, I think that's great. I think that's a great prompt and it's something I'm sure not enough brands are doing.

Matt (10:57): Or just even thinking about it to begin with.

Sam (10:59): Yeah, everyone is looking for speed and agility. That everyone's trying to figure out how to get the right insight as quickly as possible and as efficiently as possible. And I think there are times, and that's why there's people, great leaders in this space, who have built frameworks about this. There are certain times that call for certain thresholds of both measurement and insight work and qual versus quant decisioning. But more and more, I think you're seeing companies saying, "I want to be as nimble as humanly possible. I want to be agile. I want to be able to test and learn quickly. Iterate, make decisions with low-cost barriers, and then ultimately scale them up into large-scale wins." Doing that drastically changes how you think about market research.

Matt (11:42): All this stiff that you're talking about, Sam, it just keeps hitting me in the head that the map is not the territory for this kind of stuff. What we've established as the way to go about interacting with customers is really not something you can follow as a total blueprint as a brand.

Sam (11:58): Yeah. I think a good way of looking at it, and I don't have the hard data on this, but I remember when I was at NYU, Scott Galloway was talking about one of the best ways to learn how companies are changing is just looking at LinkedIn profiles and seeing the new type of people that are going in and out.

Sam (12:11): And I'm sure if you look at Kellogg, if you look at us, if you look at General Mills, if you look at PepsiCo, start seeing what their brand managers look like now and where they're hiring them from. I'm sure you're going to see a lot more D2C experience. And then when you start looking at the D2C companies as they grow and they start investing more into these mass reach, mass equity type of environments, you're just going to start to see their media managers, their brand directors and things of that nature.

Sam (12:38): You'll see some of them start moving from larger advertiser players... I think you're seeing a swap because everyone is trying to do it all. That's the ambition. That's why Google and Facebook are now two of the top TV advertisers in the world. And why digital investment across CPGs is going through the roof. So everyone's trying to fill the gaps and the perceived gaps in their business that they think they have. Talent is one of the ways that you're going to do it. And I think it's a really smart way of saying, looking at the change in what some of these companies are doing. Just who they're hiring, what's the background they're getting them from, what is the skillset that they're coming in with that might not have been there a couple of years prior?

Mitch (13:16): Precisely.

Matt (13:17): Totally.

Mitch (13:18): Well, Sam, always insightful to talk to you and always good to hear your voice and your baby's voice. So thank you for showing up.

Matt (13:26): Thanks. This is great. This is great perspective.

Sam (13:29): No. Thanks for having me, gentlemen. Appreciate it.

Mitch (13:44): That's a wrap, y'all. Thank you for listening, subscribing, and rating the show. Sam was too gracious to plug anything, but I'm sure he's hiring, and I will personally vouch for him as a great leader if you're interested in working at ABI. Question Authority is made possible by Fairing, the leading post-purchase survey provider for over 1,500 DTC brands. To learn more and grab a 14-day free trial, check out See you next time.

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