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Spotlighting Dig's U.K. team

Despite being a Canadian-founded and based company, Dig works with clients across the globe, uncovering insights in over 46 countries every year. To accommodate our growing business across the pond, the Dig Insights team is now home to a permanent office and team in the U.K.

We sat down with two members of the client teams based out of the U.K., to understand the differences between the British and North American markets, learn more about what excites them about the insights industry, and chat U.K. products that aren’t available overseas (yet).

Fiona McBride is a Senior Director, Insights in the U.K., who brings 20 years’ agency-side experience in consumer-led innovation insights, brand strategy consulting, and marketing mix and media analytics; and Julien Naggar, Vice President Insights, is a bilingual qualitative researcher, moderator and facilitator with a background in theatre and anthropology, focusing on complex healthcare and consumer topics.

What attracted you to insights as a career in the first place?

Fiona: I started my career in retail designing shelf layouts for at a number of Retailer Headquarters. This sparked a fascination for me in terms of what was motivating shoppers and consumers to pick one brand or product over another, and I also started wondering about how and why companies knew which products to launch in-store, what price to sell them at etc.  Discovering I could have a career that built on this curiosity was a revelation to me! I love working with companies to support them at all stages of their innovation process, and identifying the big insights that help to drive truly transformational action for their brands.

Julien: I stumbled into it. Initially I was pursuing a career as a theatre practitioner and in order to actually earn enough money to pay my rent, I found a job as a market research assistant. It turns out that my interest were more in the exploration of humans than they were in performing humans, and so I ended up pursuing the MBA and pivoting.

How does the U.K. differ as a market from places like the U.S. and Canada?

F: One of the things I love most about working in Insights is the opportunity to work internationally, and understand how markets, and their consumers, differ from each other, and how they are similar.

The U.K. is an interesting market - whilst relatively small in terms of population compared to the U.S. and some of the other large markets such as India, China, Indonesia, Nigeria and Brazil etc, it is often a strategically important market for new trends and innovations.

J: I think what's interesting about the U.K. is not only is it a test market for innovation, but there there's a lot of great ad agencies, a lot of great market research agencies, a lot of great innovation and creative agencies. And they're all very, very concentrated which feeds a lot of that innovative thinking both on the product and researcher sides.

Could you talk about some of the cultural nuances in the Bev-Al industry in the U.K.?

F: Per capita consumption of alcohol in the U.K. is higher than in North America, and it's a dynamic industry with a lot of energy and innovation.

Although generally alcohol in the U.K. has become more affordable in recent years, we're seeing a lot of premiumization in Bev-Al (despite a recent cost-of-living crisis) and also a big increase in the craft / artisanal sector, with consumers seeking out high-quality, small scale production beers and spirits in particular. There has also been an increase in recent years in the number of consumers choosing to eliminate or reduce their alcohol consumption for a variety of reasons, and this goes hand-in-hand with a sizeable increase in the number of low/no alcohol beers.

J: I think that is what is really interesting right now is how no and low alcohol is blowing up in the U.K. market, especially in London. You have the pub as a communal meeting place and you have non-alcoholic options coming in, even in football stadiums, and actually being part of that culture. It's an interesting trend.

What are the benefits of working on a global team?

F: For me, the biggest benefit is having the opportunity to work with great people who each have different experiences, cultures, interests and languages. Working in a global team means I still have the opportunity to learn new things, and leverage the expertise of others whenever I need it - there is always someone who can bring knowledge or a POV on a particular market, category or brand that might be new to me.

J: For me, it's really helpful to be a Canadian in the U.K. because as a qualitative researcher, you always wanna go into a scene or a setting with a beginner's mindset. And so the ability to ask the dumb questions is a really big opportunity to uncover new insights. When you extrapolate that to our whole team, you've got people who have that beginner mindset, alongside people who have the expert, local mindset across qual studies and quant studies, and we're all working together.

We're such a big global team that we have an expert for every single market; someone who was born in that market, grew up in that market. Who can always you know course correct, fact check, and provide nuance needed to make sure that our insights are really amazing.

What is the hottest topic in the U.K. insights industry right now?

F: Of course generative AI is a hot topic in the U.K. - I think there is excitement and optimism about the role that AI can play, but many companies (both client and agency side) are still trying to figure out exactly what is, and I think  Dig has a real advantage in this space having invested early and wisely into understanding how AI can be leveraged effectively.

And another trend that I see impacting the U.K. insights industry is how to capture 'real' consumer understanding and behaviour, often in the moment.  Dig's Upsiide innovation platform is designed to work like many social media platforms, with a fast and intuitive 'trade off' exercise for research participants, mimicking how today's consumers behave online.

J: Everyone's talking about AI. Synthetic data, synthetic personas, synthetic profiles, and augmenting research with synthetic profiles. My belief right now is that Dig is still very much ahead of the curve on AI with the work our Advanced Analytics team are doing around experimenting.

If you could bring any one U.K. product to market in the U.S, what would it be?

F: I would love to bring English Sparkling Wine from the U.K. to the U.S.  English wine has long had a terrible reputation (and in the 1970s and 1980s it totally deserved it!) but it is having a real 'moment' right now, and the number of U.K.-based vineyards producing high-quality wines is increasing rapidly. Sparkling wine in particular often outranks Champagne in blind taste tests and French Champagne house are even buying up land in the south of England as changing temperatures globally means that the conditions around Kent and Sussex are similar to those in the French Champagne region 20-30 years ago.

J: I have two - number one, roast dinners. And number two, Gogglebox. It is such an amazing snapshot of the British public. Who knew that watching people watching TV would be so endearing, heartwarming, and revelatory; it's almost like having friends in your living room. There was an episode where they showed their reactions to the news of the Queen passing, and they start crying and you can't not cry too. And you're sharing this communal collective experience. It's really cute, I love it.