Understanding Perception and Experience


Episode 4. I hope you enjoyed our previous Cup of Jo videos featuring Karla CongsonSteve Mast and Dalia Asterbadi.  Today, we’re speaking with Chief Operating Officer at Ipsos Canada, Steve Levy. Steve manages a deep expertise staff of over two hundred marketers and researchers. Steve is always acutely attuned to the latest trends in the market, only matched by his love of eyewear with way over fifty chic spectacles in constant rotation at any given moment.

Grab a coffee and take it all in.

[Michael Chase]
With Ipsos Canada, you’re not only looking at a fifty thousand foot view of the marketing world, but you also get into the nooks and crannies of really what’s making it tick. How is a leading company like Ipsos stay on top of this?

[Steve Levy]
The truth of the matter is, we look at the market through four lenses. First lens, and the biggest, is marketing. That covers everything outside of advertising including product, packaging, promotion, pricing and the biggest area, innovation.

Second lens is advertising. When I say advertising, I’m thinking everything pretest and everything after the fact.

Third lens is loyalty. Here we’re really looking at the customer experience. The journey that customers have these days when they buy services.

The fourth lens, which is smallest but also loudest, is our public affairs group. It’s really their role to look at policy, to look at corporate reputation and to make a lot of noise for us. That’s why we’re in the press three hundred sixty-five days of the year.

[Michael Chase]
What trends do you see from those four lenses that matter to people?

[Steve Levy]
The first would be the changing face of Canada. Truth of the matter is that Canada is shrinking. We’re not growing. The only form of growth in this country is by immigration. Immigration is different from the way that it used to be. Different from two perspectives. First, is where people come from. People aren’t coming from Europe as they were when you were a little younger. They’re coming from Asia, from China, from India. The second is the nature of immigration. Today it’s economic immigration more than it ever was in the past.

[Michael Chase]
Ipsos has just finished an exhaustive global study of the influence of over 1,300 brands. Can you share some of the findings with us?

[Steve Levy]
It’s a very cool study. It started 5 years ago. We now run the study in 21 countries. We survey around 36,000 people around the world and as you said, we look at 1,300 brands. Influence itself isn’t simple. It’s actually comprised of eleven different things. Everything from helping people to shop better to making their lives more interesting. A whole bunch of different things.

Across the hundred brands that we look at in Canada; trust, engagement, being leading edge, good corporate citizenship, and presence are key. It varies by brand. It varies by category. Indeed it varies around the world. Some of the cool things that we’ve seen in the study really relate to how the different generations rank different brands and how we see different brands ranked around the world. In fact, we’re learning a ton of stuff about how great local brands outside of Canada could help market us inside Canada.

[Michael Chase]
Steve you often talk about the perils of perception. I find it absolutely fascinating. Can you tell us a little bit about that phenomenon?

[Steve Levy]
I’m astonished by how wrong we get things. In order to try and understand how wrong we get things, one of our teams in Europe put together a program where they looked at issues, in fact twelve issues, where they knew the answer. Things like, obesity rates, immigration rates, teenage pregnancy rates, the proportion of people who live in urban versus rural. They look at these different issues where they know the answer to the question, and then we ask the public those questions in twenty-one different countries. What we’re doing is we’re looking at the gap between perception and reality.

Once we’ve established this gap, on these twelve or thirteen issues, we can essentially create an index of ignorance. We choose that word very carefully because ignorance is not about stupidity. It’s about lack of knowledge. At the end of the day, we create an index of ignorance by country. We rank the countries around the world from the most ignorant to the least ignorant.

[Michael Chase]
I think we can all agree that we’re in an experience economy now. You’ve got a great story that talks about brand experience and I’d love you to share it.

[Steve Levy]
Sure. The fastest growing part of what we do is in fact trying to understand customer experience; the journey that people go through. For example, there was a pitch that took place with a rail company. I won’t say who it was. The rail company recognized that the experience that they were offering was brutal. They recognized that this was the case and they put out a tender to have an agency help them to improve the experience. The agency set up a meeting and the rail executives showed up at their office, which is dark, dingy, messy, smelly. There’s a receptionist that was rude and not very cooperative. The meeting is to start at 11:00am. 11:10 roles around. 11:20 roles around. The rail executives are getting agitated. 11:30 roles around and still no one from the agency is there. 11:40 roles around. As the furious rail executives get up to leave, an agency executive opens the board room door, walks in, shakes their hand, welcomes them, and says, “Welcome to the experience that your customers have every day. Perhaps we can help you.”

[Michael Chase]
Steve as we wrap up today’s show, I’m going to ask you one more question. What is the one thing that brands can do to transform the way then engage with people?

[Steve Levy]
If there were one thing, it would be change. Change in terms of when, where, and how they change. When you think of it, there are numerous examples of this kind of circumstance, whether it’s Tesla and the vision of renewable energy. Whether it’s Netflix and the issue of changing how we produce and how we distribute movies, or whether it’s Shopper’s Drug Mart and the incredible focus that they’ve put on cosmetics. Change is the key.

[Michael Chase]
Excellent Steve. Great conversation. Thank you for taking this caffeinated journey with us.

Now, tell us how we can help