Episode 19

Forging a path to real representation in research

Paula Tripp, Head of Foundational and Menu Insights at McDonald’s, shares three ways the company is making its research more diverse and inclusive, discusses the importance of accurate sampling and sets up a challenge for Ryan Barry — and all our listeners — that could have a real impact.


Ryan Barry: Hi everybody and welcome to season three of Inside Insights, a podcast powered by Zappi. My name is Ryan. You might know me if you've listened to the show before, and you might also know my co-host and dear friend, Patricia Montesdeoca. Hi, Patricia.

Patricia Montesdeoca: Hey Ryan, how’re you doing?

Ryan: You know what let's share with our audience, how we're actually doing. So we have something very good and something not so good that we'll share. I was just on a walk with my colleague, Babita Earl, great human being, and I stepped in a wasp’s nest. So about seven minutes before this podcast, I got stung by a bunch of wasps. That sucked, but I'll be fine. But Patricia has even more exciting news. Patricia, what's showing up at your house at six o'clock tonight? In six hours and two minutes, but who's counting?

Patricia: Not me at all…A little miniature named Orso is going to show up in our lives. He is a toy Australian shepherd that I have adopted as my new love. I am so excited. I can hardly count.

Ryan: And I'm so excited for you that the back of my leg throbbing subsided for just a moment, just a brief moment. I can't wait to meet your puppy.

Patricia: Oh, next week you get to meet him!

Ryan: Well, for our next episode of season three, we can maybe have another co-host, you know, we'll have a tripod effect.

Patricia: Yeah!

Ryan: So season three, here we are. We're going to bring the heat again, as ever. If you've listened to season one and two, you know we are here to teach you something. To share what your peers are working on and to give you something tangible that you can take back to work. So we've got a whole new group of people that we're interviewing from across the industry, working in different facets. Today, we're going to talk about something near and dear to me and to Patricia and to many people within our organization, a topic we take very seriously at Zappi, not just from the way we recruit our talent, but also the way we think about the data that we collect and the business that we're building.

And that topic is diversity, inclusion and equity and belonging. Today, our guest is Paula Tripp, a woman who I've known for many years. She heads up menu innovation and exploratory insights at McDonald's, a small little company, you might've heard of them. And Paula is doing some incredible work to change, very pragmatically, mind you, how things are done at McDonald's. How their partner network works, and I think she's making an incredible difference, not just in the work that they do, and as a result, what 80% of Americans eat once a month, but also she's leading across the industry. She's involved in a bunch of groups. She's speaking publicly and she's holding people accountable in a very thoughtful, non condemning way. And so I was really pleased when Paula agreed to chat with us. And honestly, Patricia, as much as you and I are great, I think we should just get right into the conversation with Paula because I am very confident it's going to be incredible.

Patricia: Go for it.

[Music transition to interview]

Paula's interview

Ryan: Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like you to meet Paula Tripp. Hi, Paula.

Paula Tripp: Hey, Ryan. How are you doing?

Ryan: I'm good. Paula, you have a cool job title. I'm going to say it. You tell me if I say it wrong. You are the Head of Foundational and Menu Insights at McDonald's, just a small company in Chicago not many people have heard of.

Paula: Yeah. Ryan: Before we dive in, we've got a big topic today. We are going to tackle representativeness, diversity, and inclusion in the work we do, in this industry. It's a heavy topic. I want to get people grounded in you a little bit, before we start. You've been in this role I think about a year? Am I right?

Paula: I have been, yes. That's exactly right. It's a brand new role at McDonald's. We kicked it off really because we recognized that we needed to have more of a long term strategic view of our consumer. With all of the work that is going on at McDonald's, from launching brand new menu items to bringing on our loyalty program, to introducing the world to the Saweetie Meal and the Travis Scott meal and BTS, with all of those things that are happening in the media, we recognized the need to have somebody kind of taking a step back and saying, "What's that long term vision for McDonald's? Where does the consumer stand right now, that we can really capitalize on, so that we are prepared for the future?"

We can't just focus on what's happening right now. We have to have a long term point of view. That's how McDonald's has been so successful for 65 years and how I've been successful in my role at McDonald's for 16 years, is really looking at the long term. So, that's what I do in this role.

Ryan: 16 year tenure. Wow. You know what? That's an incredible achievement in today's environment, where people jump every two years. 16 years. That's, what? Four CEOs, at least.

Paula: Yes, I think you may have that just about right. I think it was three, during my timeframe.

Ryan: All right, so I'll just tell everybody. I'm a McDonald's fanboy, for a variety of reasons. They are one of my bigger customers, so I want to put that on the table. One of the things that always impresses me about McDonald's is the way they treat people, inside and outside their walls. I've never felt like a vendor in your walls. That means a lot.

I had no idea you had been at McDonald's for 16 years, though. That's impressive. Were you in an insights role before that?

Paula: Before McDonald's, I was actually at Unilever. With Unilever, I was part of the launch of the Dove hair care, as well as Dove deodorant, as well as I don't know if you guys have heard of a little brand called Axe. Those are a few of the highlights of my career, starting out. I started out in research because I really had a desire to better understand the consumer, better understand people, and why they make the decisions that they make.

Ryan: Did you work on the beauty campaign that Dove put out?

Paula: I did, the campaign for real beauty.

Ryan: That's the campaign. You know what? We're going to get into inclusion, belonging, and representativeness. That campaign should have been happening 50 years earlier, but it was ahead of its time, in the sense of what big companies were marketing at that time.

Paula: Definitely. What I'm proud of with Unilever is that Unilever continues to be at the forefront, in terms of diversity and inclusion. With the support of the Crown Act, I don't know if your listeners are familiar, but the Crown Act is legislation that makes it illegal to discriminate against people because of their hair style. I think it's in maybe 13 or so states, where it's illegal to discriminate against someone and say, "You know what? I'm not going to hire you because you're wearing braids." Or telling you how to wear your hair, when as long as it's clean, it's fine.

That's something I'm really proud of. I'm excited because McDonald's is actually also working to be on the forefront, in terms of how we view diversity and inclusion in everything that we do. Really exciting times.

Ryan: It is. Just a quick sidebar, because the Crown Act, it should never have to be a thing, but obviously it's needed. We're recording this episode in late August. We just ended an Olympic Games where a woman wasn't able to wear a swim cap that fit her hair appropriately. I mean, give me an absolute break. It was horrific to see that the Olympics had that stance on something.

Paula: I think what the last 18 months, as we've been within this pandemic, really opened our eyes to a lot of the inequalities that are happening within the world. Things that some of us may have felt were gone and were things of the past, and this type of discrimination, it's not gone. It's just changed.

We as citizens, both as corporate citizens and within our personal lives, we need to be very intentional, I would say, to make sure that we are anti-racist and that we do learn how to listen and understand people, better than we have been doing in the past. I hear a lot of people saying, "We did our best." I'm like, "If this is our best, our best isn't good enough. We need to do better."

Ryan: That's right. I think it takes people going out of their comfort zone and actually seeing the world from somebody else's vantage point. The specific inflection point was George Floyd. I remember making a bunch of phone calls to friends of mine. I thought I was smart before those phone calls. I wasn't. I didn't know shit about this topic. I think the acknowledgement of knowing what you don't know and being okay and being vulnerable is something that I think a lot of people are still struggling with. Imagine if you actually had to be uncomfortable all day, every day, people.

Paula: I was going to say, and a lot of us do. As a black woman, after George Floyd, I did some soul searching as well and had conversations with people I don't generally have conversations with, about things I don't generally have conversations about.

Within my role at McDonald's, I am the only person of color within Consumer Insights. We are hiring, so hoping to change that.

Ryan: They're hiring, people. Great company.

Paula: We really need to make sure that we are having those tough conversations. I appreciate having been able to have a conversation like one I have never had before with a gay white male, who I hadn't really understood his perspective before. Really understanding how this corporate environment and how the political climate is impacting different people. I think that's one of the most important changes that I've seen, that I'm really encouraged by, is people listening to each other.

Ryan: Yes.

Paula: We have to listen to each other.

Ryan: Yes, it's so true. You know what? All the societal tension and the pandemic have forced us to finally open our eyes and be vulnerable with each other. From just little things like a year ago you're looking inside someone's living room, when you're on a conference call. Their armor is all of a sudden gone, you know?

Paula: Yeah.

Ryan: All right, so we are going to dive into this topic, here. I was on a business call with Paula, a few months ago. I left the call so fired up. I texted the folks on the podcast and was like, "We gotta have Paula on."

You are outspoken in trying to solve real problems that impact the way McDonald's makes business decisions. Let's start with the problem. In your own words, what is the problem in this industry, around the representativeness and inclusivity of the work we do? We can talk about the people occupying the companies, but let's start with the work, the work that we all do that makes multi billion dollar decisions every day.

Paula: Oh gosh. Let's start with the work. The challenge with the work we do, this is talking about consumer insights and research and understanding people, in order to make business decisions. Nuts and bolts of it is, when we go out to understand people, we have to have a sampling scheme, where we say, "I want a sample that is representative of the United States of America."

What we have found is, frequently, our research partners are balancing their sample to be representative of age and gender. Sometimes, with as fast as we are moving on the client side, it gets missed that these samples are not balanced on ethnicity. When we have an unbalanced sample on ethnicity, if we don't try, if we don't work to make sure that we have Hispanic, Asian, African American within the sample, we will tend to get a sample that is more Caucasian than what we would expect from something that is supposed to be balanced to the US Census.

There have been times where I've gone back and said, "Let's ask what the ethnicity breakout was," after the fact. We see that it is 70, 80 or more percent Caucasian. That is not balanced to our country. That means that the learning that we're getting, instead of it being representative of all consumers, is skewed to be more, "Oh, you're finding out what white America thinks and what white America wants." Then you end up providing a service or products, and that influences what your end result is. That's just one part of it, in terms of being appropriately representative.

McDonald's has decided, line in the sand, "We are going to change this. We are not going to just let that happen. We are going to make sure that for everything, all the research that we do, we make sure that it is representative of age, ethnicity, as well as gender." All three of those things are important. Income, geographics, those are important, as well. A lot of times, it's more expensive and it's more time-consuming, the more things that you are bringing into the fold, in terms of how you want things to be representative.

The second thing that's really, really important, though, that we've found is, if I am balanced to the US Census, then I still have a smaller proportion of African American, Hispanic, and Asians, so that then I'm challenged and unable to actually see what do African Americans think specifically, as their own group. What do Hispanics think, what do Asians think, versus the white consumer? Then my challenge is, I want to understand all my children.

Ryan: Yeah, yeah. Especially in your business, where 80% of the country walks through those doors on a monthly basis?

Paula: Exactly, yeah. We've started doing a lot of research where we say, "You know what? When you average them out together, you don't really get the full story." You need to be able to look at each group individually, so that you can understand and make a decision. That does not mean that I'm going to always make my decision one way or the other, but I should at least respect the differences enough that I know what they are, right?

Ryan: Yeah.

Paula: If you have four kids and you know that your oldest kid's favorite color is pink, but you have no idea what your other three kids like, that's a problem. You can't just say, "Oh, you know what? We're all going to wear pink today." Let's understand. We still might say we're all wearing pink today, because it's October and we are honoring those who have dealt with breast cancer. We can decide that that's what we're going to do, but I want to at least have the understanding.

Ryan: That's true.

Paula: So, that's my goal. That's the big change that we're committing to making at McDonald's. We are going to do an even better job of understanding all of our consumer groups. I'm really proud of McDonald's. We do care about and focus on and invest in all of our communities. We make sure that we are supporting all of the communities.

But, as we're developing our strategies, we just want to make sure that we are doing the due diligence around understanding everyone and really respecting the similarities and the differences.

Ryan: It makes a ton of sense. I believe we're entering into a time where it's more niche than mass. You're integrating into subsets of communities, even if you're McDonald's. Because with your production scale, I imagine you can get a big campaign out the door that is only targeted to a specific subset, and it's still lucrative enough.

Funny story, I didn't know who Travis Scott was until y'all advertised. Now I'm a Travis Scott fan.

Paula: I love it.

Ryan: But no, I think that subset point, I don't know if you feel it. I want to be marketed to in my terms, in my community, about things that are relevant to me. I don't want to be 1980s mass marketed any longer.

Paula: Exactly. We have the ability now to personalize our messages to people, and so we can do that. The other thing that you said that I think is really important is, we are more alike than we're different. We're all interested in understanding other people and other groups.

Ryan: Yes.

Paula: I would say so many of us are saying, "Hey, this Saweetie Meal, who's Saweetie? What's BTS?" It's okay. It's opening our eyes to something new, that we wouldn't have thought of before. That's what McDonald's should do.

Ryan: Right, it should have that uniting capability, as a brand.

Paula: It goes back to what I was saying before. We need to just work a little harder to understand each other and to listen to each other.

If the best isn't right, then let's fix it. And we can fix it.

Ryan: We can fix it. You know what it actually starts with? In this industry, in this topic, it's the buyers of research saying, "We're done." In my humble opinion. I want to get your perspective on why, but this is a holistic supply chain problem. If we rely on people to provide us with their thoughts, to help us make better decisions, we need the right people to provide us with their thoughts. It's pretty simple.

Paula: Yes.

Ryan: All right, so let's share hypotheses. Why do you think your current state, when you started really looking into this, six, seven months ago, was rep equals age and gender across the industry? Why do you think that was the case? Do you have a view?

Paula: I do have a view, and it goes back to what we were talking about a little bit earlier, in terms of having people in positions to say that we need to do things differently. As you said, it's up to the research buyers. It's up to me and my team. I would say that, for the 16 years that I've been at McDonald's, I've always pushed. When I have research partners who say they can't, I say, "Figure it out. Figure out how you can do it." They'll say, "It'll take longer." Then I'll say, "How much longer?"

Sometimes people hear it'll take longer, and they're like, "Oh, well, if it's going to take longer, then never mind. I tried." My thing is, "How much longer? Why is it going to take longer? Can we shorten that amount of time? Okay, you're saying it has to take an extra week, an extra four days? We'll tack on an extra four days to our timeline."

I don't know if you heard this one from me, and if there are researchers listening in, I can do research really quickly by asking my son and my husband what they think, but we don't do research that way.

Ryan: Right.

Paula: Sample size of two is fast. Two convenient samples are super fast. Just ask your grandmother. You hear of mother-in-law research. But as research professionals, that's not how we do things. We want to do things the right way, so that they are predictable and repeatable. What we've found is, if you are talking to the wrong sample of people, this is a business thing, then you're more likely to make the wrong decision.

Ryan: That's right.

Paula: So we want to make sure that we are providing the information so that we're making the correct decisions, because you have to talk to the right people to make the right decisions.

Ryan: And with the right base size, right?

Paula: Yes.

Ryan: I want to get into this in a minute with you, because I think you're right. Having 15 Hispanics reps in a sample frame is not going to allow you to project what the Hispanic population is going to do, when there's three different degrees of acculturation.

Paula: Exactly.

Ryan: I mean, what are you going to do with that?

Paula: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ryan: My hypothesis is, it starts with the corporate community. I remember going to a failed industry attempt. Big CPG, big MR companies, sample companies…This was about four years ago. It's supposed to be the day to discuss sampling quality in the industry. Everybody's vocabulary is different. The brands in the room, big CPG, "Hey, you got this, right, vendor?" "Okay, great. Thanks. I'm just going to go back to my email." Sampling company? Even though they all buy and sell with each other, "You know what? These are our trade secrets."

Paula: We're not going to talk to each other.

Ryan: Right. Everybody's got their guards up. Meanwhile, over the last 10 years, and I'm guilty, we've driven the price of research down because of technology. Technology is going to enable things to be faster and cheaper, just because you make people repurposed to do more high value tasks, but we've raced to the bottom on the cost per interview, to the point where the bottom has dropped out. There's not enough people to go through, to actually go and recruit on Univision or in African American communities, or where you actually need to go out of your way to over-recruit, to get the right people in the frame.

There's a few very brave corporate insights leaders, you're one of them, that are starting to mandate this stuff. I'm fundamentally of the view it won't change until that's a table stake line item in everybody's RFPs.

All right. So, we aren't just here to complain. You’re making moves. To the extent you can share, what are some of the specific things you're doing to audit, evaluate, and optimize the way you do work, so that, at least within your walls, you're making sure the right frames are there and the right decisions are being made?

Paula: I would say we're doing three key things. The first is, we are making sure to look at, within all of the work that we do, we actually have said, "We are going to call out what is happening with the multicultural consumers. What is happening? What do we see in our research results with African American, Hispanic, and Asian consumers?" If you don't have the sample, then you can't do that. Now we're making sure that that is an expectation that all of our research reports will actually call that out. That, I would say, is really, really big, to make sure that we are making the changes that we talk about.

The second thing, in order to do that, that we're doing, is we are adjusting our budgets. We are putting our money where our mouth is, in terms of understanding, "This is how much more it's going to cost to do the research this different way." We are actually making those adjustments, in terms of our budgets and our timelines.

Then the third is things like this, that I'm doing right now. We're talking about it. We are partnering with whomever we can partner with, whether it is CPGs, we're partnering with Pepsi and we're partnering with Coke. It's interesting that we're partnering with both of them. We're partnering with lots of other companies that are doing research, as well as partnering with the Zappi’s of the world and our research partners, to make sure that we are really staying at the top of our game, for understanding how we can do things differently.

We do view this as something that should be shared. It shouldn't be something that's just kind of, "Oh, this is my unique selling proposition." No. We need everybody to do this. This needs to be table stakes, across the board.

Ryan: It really does. So, budgets are going up.

Paula: Yeah.

Ryan: Everything you just said is impressive. How did you go about that conversation? I mean, for those of you who work in an insights department, you know why I'm asking. Budgets come from everywhere, insights has a bit of money, marketing has a bit of money, R&D has a bit of money. Take me through, was it a hard thing to sell in, and what were some tips if somebody was trying to have that conversation?

Paula: It's definitely hard. I'm sure people will not be surprised, but our actual budget doesn't really go up from year to year. More likely, it'll go down. You know, how can you save money this year? What we're saying is that this is important, and so if that means that we have to do one or two fewer projects, then we'll do one or two fewer projects, in order to make sure to be able to absorb that increase in the cost per interview. That's really how we're doing it. We're saying, "We are going to prioritize differently."

Then also, really thinking about how to be creative, to get the learnings that we need. That's where it is working with all of our research vendors, to say, "What do we do differently? Where is there some leeway, to make some changes?" Does it mean instead of a 10-minute interview, we figure out how to do a five-minute interview?

Ryan: Right, and then you can displace the costs.

Paula: Yeah.

Ryan: I think in our case, we ended up rebasing a norm database, didn't we? I think that's rolling out in a few days, which is useful. The second thing is specific call outs in the results. I'm envisioning a really wonderful partner of yours, that helps you evaluate menu innovations. You'll take the overall rep score and then click out each of those subcategories, or subpopulations?

Paula: Yes. Yeah.

Ryan: So posit scores, PI, all the main metrics?

Paula: Yes, and really making sure that we are placing more emphasis on the individual, on each of the segments, than we have been in the past, so that it's not just this kind of rep average. We know what happens when we look at averages. You lose things in the wash. Ryan: It's totally true. Everybody listening to my podcast, that's my three-year-old son Cal. He just woke up from a nap. He's not happy, but he just needs a bit of sugar in his life. That's all.

Paula: There you go. Somebody will give him some.

Ryan Barry: Since I'm a geek, you're a geek, base sizes. What's a minimum base size that you're comfortable calling out in that way?

Paula: I am a geek. Really, it depends on where we are. If this is very early stage, then I'm okay with a 100 to 150. For the other research geeks, everybody knows, "Oh my gosh, that's a really, really small base size." And it is. With McDonald's, we're fortunate because we have so much history. What I want to do, especially with some of these menu projects that we're doing, is I just want to get a big enough base size that I feel comfortable that I'm able to see some differences.

The work that I'm doing with Zappi is not kind of my end game. It's more kind of a little bit earlier on, so I feel comfortable looking at it with those smaller/not so small base sizes. I do need it to be at least big enough that I can start to see some statistical significance. Which, in our industry, I can't see with 30 people. What I see with 50 people actually ends up not being consistent with what we see, when we go into the market. That's why I feel more comfortable with 100 or more, as my minimum base size.

Ryan: Well, at least with 100 or more-

Paula: Ideally, I'd like 500, but that's if I was going a little bit deeper and trying to cut the data multiple ways.

Ryan: Exactly. I was going to say, even with 100, you can still cut it by a few age groups, age and gender. It's not perfect, but that makes sense. Okay, and then industry partnerships was the third bucket. You're talking to some of your peers that are also leading brands, major advertisers, cultural savants, from a business perspective. You're getting out and spreading the word. I see you've been involved in some of the newer industry bodies that are organizing around themselves. What are some other areas that you're getting yourself and the organization involved in, to help solve the problem?

Paula: You know what? We are definitely trying to make sure that we are, as you said, having kind of these peer group conversations. I've actually just started working with a brand new, we kicked off last week, black market researchers group called Over Index. It's brand new. It just started on LinkedIn last week.

Ryan: Come on!

Paula: Really bringing black researchers together, and allies are invited. Bring us together, so that we can have these sorts of conversations and support each other and find each other. When it's time for hiring new people or looking for speakers or looking for thought leadership, there's somewhere to go for that. That is definitely what I'm doing. I'm on the advisory board for TMRE, for their Everything Insights at Home that we just started earlier this year and last year.

Definitely trying to make sure that I keep my finger on the pulse and that our whole team here at McDonald's is thinking about new ways of doing things. That's something that I've always appreciated about working at McDonald's, is we're very open to doing things better. This is a huge area where we can do that. I'm excited about it. We've actually kind of put that stake in the ground, to say, "We want to be cutting edge, in terms of inclusive research."

Ryan: And you already are. I mean, I can count on one hand how many major brands have reached out. You and Jamie were the first ones. "Let's get around a table and talk." I thought just the way you guys approached it was humble and open and really quite wonderful.

Let's shout out Over Index. You can find it on LinkedIn. I've just requested to join. I am an ally. You shouldn't have to solve the problems of the world on your own.

It leads me into my last question. How do we get more people from diverse backgrounds into this industry in the first place? We can go on a long talk right now, if we want to, about how we need more ethnically diverse people in the C-suite, but let me just tell you, I have a hard enough time getting people out of college to want to join this space.

My hypothesis is, we have to solve it with the people in this space and make sure they have opportunities, but we need to get more people into this space. It's a predominantly white male industry still. I know I sound ridiculous because I am a white male, but I know that it is. What are your thoughts? I mean, I just got an idea by joining that group. Is that one way for this to change? I'd love to get your thoughts on how we solve it, systemically, in the organizations, whether they're client side or vendor side. What do we need to do?

Paula: I'm going to pop to you really quick, and tell me your story. How did you get into this space? How'd you get into marketing research?

Ryan: Oh, I love this. You know, I've had almost 40 episodes. You're the first person who has done this. Okay, I was in college. I thought I was going to go to an ad agency, because I was studying advertising. I was broke, just putting myself through school, any free thing I could do to pick up experiences, I was doing them.

One of my teachers said, "I can get you into a market research conference, if you design the program." I designed the program. I go, and I sit there. Went around like a hungry hippo, asking everybody for business cards. That's how I got into market research. I remember leaving that day, being like, "These people are wonderful. They pay better than entry level ad agencies do." I had like 100 grand in student loan debt, so I'm not going to New York City to make 20 grand. Here I am, ended up falling in love with the industry.

Paula: I love that answer. I would say that most people I talk to fell into marketing research somehow, somehow. I am the only person I know who was in seventh grade and did my first market research project, which was which chocolate chip cookie tastes best? That is a great science fair project. It gets you lots of friends. And, when your mother is a nurse and doesn't really let you eat a lot of sweets, it gives you an excuse to buy chocolate chip cookies.

Ryan: I love that!

Paula: I started young, but most people don't. What I think, this isn't just getting more diverse talent, it's getting more talent period.

Ryan: Amen to that, Paula.

Paula: But it's focusing our efforts. Spend some time going into the grammar schools. Probably more so the high schools. Go into the high schools. Go into the colleges, and specifically pick colleges where you will be able to speak to a diverse set of students. Go to historically Black colleges and universities. Go to schools that are in the cities, and really talk to them and get people excited about marketing research. Let them work on projects. As you said, that was your experience. Once people see the job, they'll figure out it's a lot of fun. It's a fun job for people who are smart, who like math, who like English, who like history.

Ryan: It's a great career.

Paula: It's a great career for you.

Ryan: All right, I'm in. It's funny because I'm involved in a master's market research program. It's not the most diverse group, as you can probably imagine. It's nothing but love for them, but we're doing this sponsorship. Now, this is more about engineering, but we're going to do Cape Town, London, Boston. We're going to sponsor an inner city high school team and teach them how to engineer. There's opportunities to do that with research, too. I know the Insights Association has formed a group. MRS has formed some pledges. There's a lot of that there.

How about this? We'll make a commitment, you and me, two high schools each, independently. We'll go on our own time, but we'll just make this commitment as friends. In the next six months, we're both going to go and give a talk to students, when they're senior year or younger. Let's see if we can make a small impact on the world. I'm in. I know exactly what high school I'm going to go to, too.

Paula: I'm in. I love the idea. I have not been in a high school since 2019, so this is something that I have done before.

Ryan: You have done this. Okay, good. Paula: Since it is now post COVID, we'll have to get back into those schools. I love the idea. I'm really kind of thinking of ways to blow it out, so that it's more than just that one visit. That's one of the things that kind of gets me, is you get into the high school and they're like, "Yeah, this is cool." But how do you kind of usher people through the process?

One of the things that I actually was able to do this year, just a couple of weeks ago, is bring somebody in, snuck them into the McDonald's office. I had a student at Howard University, she's going into her junior year, and she shadowed me for the day. She shadowed me on all of my Zoom calls. We were talking about Generation Z, which is great, because she is Gen Z.

Ryan: Right, probably the only Gen Z in that room, right?

Paula: Yeah, she was. She got to hear how we are doing research. Sometimes the talks are good, but I also wonder if you bring people in so that they can see the actual job. I'm a believer in job shadowing. Internships are great as well, but just kind of that quick, come in and shadow me and mentor me. Those are probably the things that are important to me.

Ryan: It's more impactful, right? That one to one, that day you spend is so impactful to that individual. I had a 16-year-old, well, he's now a man, who thought he wanted to be a businessperson. Same thing, he shadowed me for six weeks in the summer. You could just see, he was like a sponge. For me, it's not a lot of time, probably the same for you, to take six minutes and explain something to somebody.

All right, so I think we should reframe our competition. We'll go do a talk. Let's each have an intern that we take for at least a day off the back of this, and teach them some things. If you think of everybody listening to this, and each of you do that, we're making a difference.

Paula: Are we saying when we do this intern ... I'm going to make it hard for the listeners.

Ryan: Yeah, let's make it hard for the listeners.

Paula: It's not your next door neighbor's kid.

Ryan: No, you're going to go out of your way.

Paula: You have to find a person of color.

Ryan All right, I'm in.

Paula: Are you in?

Ryan: I'm totally in. Person of color, not your next door neighbor's kid. What's our deadline? Should we say end of year?

Paula: End of year. That gives us four months.

Ryan: All right. If any of you do this, send Paula and I an email. We will find a way to get you something yummy from McDonald's and help you evaluate something on Zappi for free.

Paula: I love it.

Ryan: All right. Paula, I can't thank you enough for this. This conversation was exactly what I was hoping for. We could probably talk for another hour, but I know you're a busy woman and we're out of time. Thank you so much for doing this. Follow Paula Tripp. She is on LinkedIn. She is brave, she is bold, and she is badass. I'm really thankful that you took the time to talk to me today.

Paula: Thank you so much for inviting me. This was great. I am looking forward to what we are going to do together. When I saw we, I mean not just me, Ryan, the Zappi team. I mean everybody that's listening. Let's do this.


I love it. Let's do this. Thank you, Paula.

Paula: Thank you.

[Music transition to outro]

The takeaways

Ryan: Holy crap. That was a great interview. I actually thought we were going to run out of time, but we made it at the end. What'd you think, Patricia?

Patricia: I mean, I get, I have the pleasure of working with her. I'm customer transformation on this account and I just enjoy working with her because every single time it's a challenge, but a good challenge as in, how do we do things better and how do we investigate? So the nerd or the geek in me is always happy when I work with her. And this week, the past couple of weeks, I've been working on new data they've come out with. What you're about to hear, what you just heard about how she's doing new things. And I'm just excited. I'm excited at how McDonald's is changing the industry. And I love being part of it.

Ryan: I want to hear your takeaways and I also want to thank you because I know that some of Paula's ambitions are big, right? And they're forcing us to change. And I genuinely appreciate her, but I'm not the one doing the work everyday, so thank you and everybody else on McDonald's team for elevating their game.

Patricia: It's a great team. So what I've done with her information, because it was so much, and the passion is so there, I've separated it into one of my favorite things, which are the W's. You know how I'm always talking about the who, what, when, where. The very research geeky thing. So that's kind of how I'm going to frame my summary of Paula's passion.

So I'm going to talk, start with the simple one. Who are we talking to today? As you said, Paula Tripp, head of foundational and menu insights, which is a new role. It's only been there for about a year at McDonald's and it's important to know is not just who her title is today, but who she is at the essence. She started at research because she had a desire to better understand consumers and why they made the decisions they made.

That is a geek at heart, no matter what her title is, that's what she is. Now, what's the topic at hand? Representativeness, which is a hard word to say, when you're not a native American speaker. Diversity and inclusion in the industry, in the research industry. And let me explain to you what that means in more colloquial words. We go and we say, oh, I want a sample that's representative of the country, right? It sounds like a simple question, but our research partners will go and bounce the sample to be representative of age and gender usually. But sometimes if not many times, these samples are not balanced on ethnicity yet. So sometimes we have up to 70 or 80% Caucasian, which is not balanced to the USA. So that's what the situation is. That's the topic at hand that we don't have a balanced, Hispanic, Asian, African-American sample.

And if we continue that way, we're only going to have products and services that are developed for Caucasians. And I don't think we want that. I think we want products for everybody. So next one, next up.

Ryan: Not only do I not want that, it's actually non-negotiable for businesses because it's just a massive part of the market. You know, it's too important to ignore.

Patricia: Exactly. So what's the larger goal? McDonald's is committing, and Paula personally, is committing to doing a better job at understanding all consumer groups. And they're putting their money where their mouth is. They're, right now, they of course support every single community they work in, but they're going to take it a step further and they're going to make sure to do the due diligence with partners like us, right? To respect the similarities, to understand and respect the similarities between the groups.

Now, another amazing W. Why is this even important? It's not just about having more products in our portfolio. No, it's not about that. It's about, not stopping it at, this is the best we can do. The work that research teams do today helps make multi-billion dollar decisions every single day. So she's not talking about McDonald's, she's talking about the research industry.

Research talks to consumers every day, all day. And we're trying to understand them well enough to make the right business decisions. McDonald's wants to do this for them. And they want the industry to do it for everybody. They feel that they shouldn't rely on it, this is the best we can do. But they want to say, if the best isn't good enough, let's make it better. If it's not right, let's fix it. And they can fix it. I mean, if McDonald's can't fix it, who can, right? They can and should have that uniting capability as a brand. It's an amazing brand, right?

So another W which isn't really a W because it's an H. How will this all start? It's a W at the end, let's fudge a little bit. Let's start looking inward. Let's look inward as people and look inward as corporate citizens within our lives. We have to make sure to be anti-racist and to learn, to listen, to understand people better than we have in the past.

Getting out of our comfort zone, seeing somebody else's point of view is important and acknowledging that we're learning and listening to each other. The pandemic, you said something really cool which was, the pandemic has shown us the inside of people's living rooms. And so this is making the armor start loosening, right? And we have to continue jiggling that armor so that it falls off for all of us.

Another W. When is this happening? Now, today, tomorrow from now on, forever. Every single time we have to just keep getting better and better. This is not just about what's happening now. That this is just the beginning, right? The last 18 months, yes, opened our eyes to the inequalities, but we have to just keep going forward and make us, make everybody see the need to have a strategic and permanent point of view on the consumers so that we all know what's the long-term vision for McDonald's. For the consumer.

And how do we prepare for that long-term vision. Now, what does McDonald's do? I remember I said it a couple of paragraphs ago. A couple of W's ago, McDonald's was putting their money where their mouth is. Well, they sure are. They're going to do two things as a company that are huge. Number one, they're making sure that every single piece of research they do is going to be balanced and representative to the country, on age and gender and ethnicity. So they're not just going to stop at two out of three. They're going all the way. You know how hard that is? It is, but it's so worth it. It's going to be more expensive and more time consuming and better. I was going to say more better, because it sounded cool in the sentence, but I know that's not grammatically correct.

Ryan: It's okay, it's a podcast, you know. Kate's not here to edit it. Although much love to her, she edits a lot of amazing things.

Patricia: Thank God she edits my things. So the first one is all about rebalancing. What is representative of the market, right? The second thing is, yes, sure we're looking at the whole gestalt of it all but, or actually in this case, it's and. They also want to look at the ethnic groups separately. They want to take white African-American Hispanic and Asians, and look at them individually as well. So they have the whole US market, but they also will have each one of these four groups separately so they can analyze them individually. And then with all of these groups together, make informed decisions that respect the differences. That's amazing. Now the blockers, of course, are getting more accurate representation. Takes longer and costs more. That's not a surprise to everybody. That's been the blocker from forever, but in general, actually you said that it's a holistic supply chain problem.

It has to start with the corporate community. And it won't change until being representative is table stakes of everybody's RFPs. So we want to do things. We want to do things the right way. We want to do things in a way that's projectable and repeatable. Paula said, if you're talking to the wrong, at the end of the day, if you're talking to the wrong people, you're going to make the wrong decision. So, I mean, it's kind of a no brainer. Except for that it takes longer and costs more. How are they removing these? They're doing three things. They're actually making an expectation of every single research report to call out what's happening, their multiculturalism. So partner A, B, C, D, or F comes to them to present results. Tell me about the multicultural consumer. So they're going to make that an expectation going forward every single time. It's going to make it muscle memory at the end of the day.

Number two, they're just going to adjust their budgets and timelines. Now, this is not easy to even write, right? They're going to prioritize differently. They're going to make sure they're doing the right research. One that matters the most, because they're going to adjust their budget. They're going to make a larger sample. They're going to look at things in a different way. And they're going to look for new ways to do things, right? And the third thing that she's doing is exactly what she just did with us. She's talking about it and talking about it and sharing, because they don't want this to be a unique selling proposition for McDonald's. They want everybody to do this so that it becomes, as I said earlier, table stakes across the board. She's, as you said, belonging to various organizations.

And she talked about over-index and she talked about being on the advisory board for Everything Insights at Home. She does all of that and so much more. So we go back to what she said earlier, make a difference individually and make a difference in your corporation so that everybody makes a difference. Now, you two got really excited and I know for a fact, I don't know if the rest of you on the line or listening to this whenever realize that that was not scripted when they challenged each other. I love that you just challenged each other. So tell us a little bit again about the challenge that you made.

Ryan: All right. So first off, I think you have a great reflection on the interview. And while I love a lot of what Paula said, the thing that inspires me most is her action orientation. A lot of people talk. Talking is easy. Ideas are free. Doing things is actually what changes the world. And that brings me to this idea. So I think, you know this about me, Patricia, but I believe this time that we're in now starts the big, heavy inertia of change in the world.

We have deeper intra-societal issues that have been embedded for years and years and years, centuries, even. And you're not going to change that overnight. That's not a reason not to start to change, which is why I'm inspired by some tactical things that Paul is doing.

I'm firmly of the opinion that talk is cheap. Action is placed at a premium, but ultimately I think it's the kids, the people in schools today that are going to inherit the world. Our regeneration is simply moving the ball forward and so I'm extremely passionate about helping kids, for a variety of reasons, educating them on what life actually means. I mean, I got out of school, high school at 17. Had no idea how to manage a book, and didn't know what I was going to be when I grew up. I had no guidance other than from my mother and father.

And I think a lot of kids do that. And so increasingly I'm wanting to spend my philanthropic time with the youth. And so the idea that we had was to go into an underrepresented district. Give a talk, but not just give a talk. Identify a person who you could help and tuck them under your wing. That could be a day in the office of shadowing, which I know I've done with your son when he was a 16 year old boy. He shadowed me for three weeks. An internship, a job placement, what have you, or simply just to be there to mentor them. And our challenge is if everybody does that, once, everybody who listens to this podcast does that once and tells a friend, they tell a friend, that compounds, and now all of a sudden hundreds, if not thousands of people who otherwise wouldn't have had the opportunity to explore business mentorship from an executive, what consumer insights actually means, would actually have that.

And that also directs one of the challenges I see, which is that our funnel doesn't have enough people in it to actually do diversity in the people that we recruit. And that was one of my dilemmas and I again think it is solved with kids. So our challenge is, to state it again, go into that school, ask the principal or the administration if you can give a talk to the class about the consumer insights industry. Offer one student an opportunity to shadow your work for as little as one afternoon, that's all you need to do. You'll make a huge impact. Once you do it, email Paula Tripp and I, and Patricia, and we want to know about it and we will be sharing our journey with you. I'm actually, in October going into an inner city school in Worster, Massachusetts and I'm very excited about that. I've already set it up.

Patricia: So I'm going to add to what you just said. My thing is internship programs, and I try to make them very balanced and I've had the pleasure of watching the people that I've interned or who've worked with me grow. And it's just a large sense of pride. So before you actually do it, if you need guidance, if you need help, if you need us to help you decide what school you're going to. Or help you figure out how to start the conversation at the school, please reach out to us. Ryan or Paula or myself on LinkedIn or via email. You know, all of our information, we're out there. We're totally open books. So look for us. Now, what are you going to get from us? Well, you're going to help the industry. You're going to learn so much yourself.

You're guiding a future leader, and this can be, I mean, yes, great high school, but this could be an elementary school. This could be a middle school. It could be college. It could be a masters program. Whoever you think you have close by that meets these needs. And you're going to enjoy something yummy from McDonald's that Paula has promised. And you're going to be able to evaluate something on Zappi for free that Ryan promised. So I will hold both of those to their commitments and we will help you in whatever part of your journey that you need for this challenge that we've thrown out. I'm looking forward to it.

Ryan: Yeah, me too. That was also the first time I've ever done that on the fly. Super fun. Well, as you know, I do a lot of things on the fly, but a competition on a podcast was pretty fun. So we brought the heat, episode one season three. The next episode was meant to be with a customer. I have this habit of hiring customers, Patricia, as you know.

Patricia: I know you do.

Ryan: Lindsay Gladden will make the seventh customer of ours that we've hired. I've known her for a very long time. And the truth is I got to know Lindsey Gladden, not necessarily from her work with Zappi, but from sharing ideas about culture and leadership on LinkedIn. And Lindsay was running brand insights at Keurig Dr. Pepper. And also prior to that help, PepsiCo stood up their shopper insights function.

Anyway, we're going to talk to Lindsay about where she sees shopper insights going in a world that is increasingly omni-channel, to use a buzzword, and how she's going to tackle that using our platform. This is not going to be about Zappi, but it's going to be her view of the world. And I'm really excited for that interview. We've got some heavy hitters coming up after that from Verizon and many other businesses across the industry. So please subscribe, tell your friends, and if there's anybody you want us to interview, you just get at us at insideinsights@zappistore.com, or you can find either Patricia or myself on LinkedIn. Thanks everybody. Have a good one.

Patricia: Ciao!