Q&A with Douglas Healy and Scott Peiser, Gatorade/PepsiCo

Editor’s Note: Douglas Healy, senior director of consumer insights and Scott Peiser, senior manager of consumer insights, Gatorade/PepsiCo. will be presenting the session titled “Propelled by insights: How Gatorade utilizes foundational research to drive brand growth.” They will be speaking at the 2023 Quirk’s Event - New York.

On July 19, The Quirk’s Event - New York will kick off with great sessions from various companies. One session to get excited for is this one from Gatorade/PepsiCo. titled, “Propelled by insights: How Gatorade utilizes foundational research to drive brand growth.” 

In the last year, Propel has seen a rebranding and breakthrough marketing giving it renewed attention. This session will look at how the insights team at Propel was able to drive these changes through foundational insights and storytelling through the multi-year process. 

To learn more about the session, we sat down with speakers Douglas Healy, senior director of consumer insights, and Scott Peiser, senior manager of consumer insights. They discussed how the process of revamping the brand was more mind-set than outcome.

“It’s more of a mind-set than it is the outcome of a specific use of tools. We all can utilize historical data and work that was done on our brands, categories and consumers to help inform the foundation of how we should think holistically about our business,” says Healy and Peiser. 

Describe the various methods of research used during the multi-year process.

The most important part of the process was to think big picture. We started work with the team on the business objectives to develop the gaps in brand strategy and then develop research plans with the end goal always in mind.

We had big questions to answer so we first focused on large scale qualitative to help us understand the category, our consumers and our competitor’s consumers. This research brought to life not just what consumers liked or disliked about our product, it helped us understand how we are viewed in the minds of our brand’s fans and rejectors.

We were able to take those insights and further pressure test the high-level direction of our ambitions through various quantitative approaches. This work was not done to validate any details; we focused on the big picture to pressure test how Propel can show up in the world, not focused on tactical decisions like logo or design, but the holistic strategy to achieve the ultimate goal.

Put together, we were able to tell a story about where we are today and where we need to get to tomorrow. This story set the agenda for the brand transformation that we’re seeing today.

What do you think made your storytelling so strong?

At the heart of storytelling is a throughline – the purpose of the story that you’re telling. In this case, the story is not about the individual research methods or results, but the brand transformation that is driving this. In every presentation of results and every conversation with cross-functionals, we were able to speak to the research as it pertains to that end goal. 

The ability to take what we learned directly from consumers and apply it to the business problem to solve made the story resonate strongly with our partners across the business. The plot points that came out of the research drove the brand’s strategy and the team’s ambition moving forward. Because we constantly connected back to the throughline of brand transformation, we were able to give the team confidence on the overall direction of where we wanted to go and allowed the cross-functional partners to all speak the same language moving in one cohesive direction.

 By constantly referencing the strategy as the throughline to the story, the research became the common thread that everybody rallies behind and makes the story that much stronger.

What is one thing you want the audience to take away from your session? 

Always focus on the big picture! Don’t let yourself get lost on the project in front of you – it can be easy to get excited by results of an individual project but, in reality, those results only matter in how they fit in the context of the highest level business goals.

You aren’t going to avoid the tactical testing later in the process, but that is just the smallest part of the impact we can have. Insights isn’t about a project. It is a collection of data points that must be brought together to create a strategy. Our role cannot be to deliver findings – it must be bigger than that.

 Our impact on the business as insights professionals should go far beyond testing the latest designs or advertisements. Insights teams should expect themselves to build the foundation for the business strategy so that when the time comes to do those tactical tests, we aren’t just receiving the stimulus and seeing how it performs. We must be an integral part of every part of the brand journey.