One of the many reasons why I chose to attend the AC Nielsen Center and get my MBA at Wisconsin was the chance to see how marketing research is done at some of the world’s most respected companies. That is exactly what center members got to do during a recent trip to visit General Mills in Minneapolis. It was a quick trip, lasting only a little more than 24 hours, but it was one that has given us a lot to think about and draw upon in our marketing research classes for the rest of the semester.
The day started with a session with CMO, Mark Addicks, who spoke to the Nielsen and Brand centers about the principles of creative marketing. Drawing examples from the travel, automotive, and non-profit worlds, Mark challenged us to think about ways to make a big buzz with not a lot of budget. We then listened to global insights manager, Jerri Jackson, speak about ways that we can effectively develop empathy and understanding for the customers that we are trying to serve. One of the most interesting examples she used is when the team at Betty Crocker tried to feed their family on less than $100 a week to truly understand the decision making that goes on when trying to feed your family on a budget. It’s easy for a company to say that they want to understand the customer – that’s living it.
After that, it was our turn to get hands on. We actually had the opportunity to sit down with General Mills consumers to interview them about their children’s snacking habits. The goal of the interview was to try and uncover potential barriers to consumption and to present potential marketing solutions – much like the insights team at General Mills would do. The thing that was unique about these interviews was that they were structured more like a game than a traditional IDI or focus group. Complete with a game board and dice, interviewers took turns asking the consumer about different life topics such as entertainment, shopping, and family life. We even had a chance to answer a few questions ourselves to get the respondent more comfortable.
Overall it was a great day and a terrific opportunity to see some of the things we have learned in our classes put into action. Thanks to everyone at General Mills for being such gracious hosts.