Pre-Conference Interview: Finding the Human in The Data Stack – How PepsiCo Leverages Data Science and Human Empathy to Unlock Rich Consumer Insight

The MRMW NA 2020 Virtual event is happening this week on the 30th September and 1st October and amongst our key speakers from leading global and regional brands such as Facebook, Google, Reckitt Benckiser, Firmenich, PayPal, ESPN, Pinterest, The Home Depot andmany more,  we recently spoke with Nick Graham, Vice President, Insights & Analytics at PepsiCo to hear how PepsiCo blends big data and human empathy to unlock insight.

Without giving too much away – what is the core message of your talk and what would you like delegates to remember?

Nick: In a world of big data, it can be tempting to think we have all the answers. But too often, more data creates confusion rather than clarity. The reason is that big data, for all its advantages, can only ever be part of the equation. It needs to be paired with empathy and a deep understanding of consumer behavior, psychology and culture to uncover the human insight buried in the data stack.

Why did you choose the topic of your talk?

Nick: There’s no doubt that big data is critical to the future of our industry, but I think we’re overlooking the fact that, on its own, more data doesn’t necessarily unlock better insights. Data needs context to be actionable, and as insights professionals, our context is in effect, the human mind.

What motivates you to join MRMW 2020 and what are your expectations?

Nick: I’m looking forward to sharing some of the great work that my team has been doing over the past year, as well as receiving inspiration from my peers and agency partners.

There is a lot of talk about the current state of consumer insights and the impact of technology. How would you sum up the current state of the industry in 1-2 sentences?

Nick: There’s never been a more exciting time to be in insights. The advances we’ve made in both data and human sciences are helping us diagnose and predict consumer behavior like never before. As a result of this – as well as the dynamic shifts in the consumer landscape over the past six months – our skillsets have never been more in demand.

Looking back on the past months please share your thoughts on the impact of COVID-19 on the market research and the consumer behaviors in general?

Nick: The pandemic has shown consumer centricity to be more important than ever. Faced with such a volatile social, economic, and consumer landscape, insights have played a critical role in understanding the shifts we’re seeing in people’s lives, attitudes and behaviors; in deepening empathy for the communities that have been most heavily impacted; in helping the business adapt and respond quickly; and in predicting what might happen next and what changes will stick long term. I think that has helped elevate the role of insights within many organizations and accelerated shifts that are already happening within our industry- from more backward-looking, reactive, and siloed data to more forward-looking, predictive and integrated insight.

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