Skip to Main Content

Dig In Episode 42 | Doug Healy @ PepsiCo On Why Insights is Strategy and the Importance of Foundational Research

Doug Healy, Senior Director, Consumer Insights for Gatorade at PepsiCo, discusses the similarities between insights professionals and architects, the importance of foundational research, and changing the perception of what it means to be part of an insights team.

“How do you get to your ideas? How do you know what matters? How do you know what inspires your consumer?”

Asking those questions highlights how this week’s guest is a natural big-picture thinker. Doug Healy, Senior Director, Consumer Insights for Gatorade at PepsiCo, has been in insights his entire career. For him, it’s all about solving problems and embedding yourself within the lives of your consumers.

Meagan and Doug discussed the similarities between insights professionals and architects, the importance of foundational research, and changing the perception of what it means to be part of an insights team.

Tune in to learn:

  • Why consumers aren’t changing as quickly as everyone thinks

  • Advice for people looking to have a career in insights

  • How insights are more about strategy and aren’t just about the numbers

  • The tactical elements of market research SaaS technologies

It was too much fun chatting with Doug. We could have probably kept talking for hours. Maybe it’s because of his passion for insights. Or maybe it’s because he said he’d be an improviser in an alternate life. While we bet Doug would have been great at that, we suspect it’s probably the passion.

A Few Highlights From the Episode:

Meagan: It was really interesting to sit in on your recent talk at Quirks and learn a little bit more about Gatorade and the performance portfolio and kind of like how you and your team approach, I guess socializing insights and making sure that you guys really are quite insight-led. Is that kind of what keeps you at Gatorade - you know, this passion for being insight-driven or consumer-centric?

I know that a lot of brands use those words, but do you feel like that really is something you guys live on a day-to-day basis within your team?

Doug: For sure. I'll give you a quick on the company. So you were just like, "What keeps your Gatorade?" I've been here for five years now, and they, as a business unit, not just the insights team, as a business unit, there is such a value for real consumer insight.

I'm not I'm not just talking about doing some testing on our innovation to understand how good it is, or we do some focus groups with consumers. Like legitimate passion. When we travel for work, we will sometimes just work with local high schools to see what kids are doing and what practices are like and go talk to the trainers and the coaches and really embed ourselves in the lives of the consumers that we're working with. And then as an insights function, we get the honor, the pleasure, and the work of putting a lot of that together.

Insights, as a function, tends to get a lot of people who are into math. Right, for very good reasons. You know, math data geometry - those kind of stem parts of the organization or of learning, which is great. We need all that.

One of the things that we talk about as insights team is that the data and the math aren't the point, right? Like like that's a thing, that's a tool. That's a way of getting to it. Like, when I talk to my friends outside and they're like, well, what is it you do? I explain my role is sort of like the hand of the king in Game of Thrones or like a consiglieri, or like a chief of staff type role where you're in the ear of leadership.

We've looked at all of the information and here are the best bets to make. Here's the way to go. How do you guide people to those decisions? And then, how we get there is a function of, getting back to kind of your original question, was how do we bring it to life and how we get people there is, you know, the metaphor I like to use is that of we're architects, right? And I see that in the way that like as an architect, when you design, you have a goal in mind, right? We are building something for this specific reason.

Then you get into the weeds of it. You you have to understand the math. You have to know the angles of every single thing. And there's these blueprints that, like someone who is not in the function, has no idea what they're saying. You have to know all of those things. You have to create it that way. But in the end, what people want right is a building that they can walk into and know where the elevators are without having to stop and figure out what the heck is going on. To be guided to where they want to go in a naturalistic way.

And then there's also the benefit, right? They also want to be awed. Right? A big part of architecture is walking into a building and being inspired. And it's almost like that inspiration helps guide you to your goal. That's how we have to look at the work. I think sometimes as insights, we can focus because we love the math so much and we love building the blueprints so much that we like to show it.

But in the end, that's just the tool that we use to get to this place, right? So to get to this place to influence people, to guide them where they ultimately need to go, we have to be super tight in our deliverables. We have to create something inspiring, which can seem weird when you're talking about you know, certain certain types of research, right? But what is the thing that matters and how do you present it in a way that people just like instinctively go, "Yes, I get it." So you're not even making the recommendation. You've kind of already put the recommendation in front of them. And so by the time you get there, they're like, "Well, yeah, of course."