Over the last decade the market research industry has been disrupted. Our largest agencies are struggling to keep up as their customers turn to newer, faster and cheaper data sources. Now we are on the edge of yet another major market shift. Now is the time for us to reassert ourselves as the rudder of the brands we love. Thank you for tuning in to the Happy Market Research Podcast where we are charting the path for the future of market researchers and businesses. Hi, I’m Jamin Brazil, and you’re listening to the Happy Market Research Podcast. Today my guest is Rudy Nadilo, President of Dapresy. Dapresy is partners with today’s top companies to help them create state-of-the-art infographics that brings your data to life. Prior to working at Dapresy, Rudy has had extensive experience in some of today’s top marketing research agencies. Rudy, thanks very much for being on the show today.
Jamin, it’s a pleasure to be here. Thank you.
Like to start out with kind of the backstory of how you entered market research. Talk to us a little bit about your parents and how they have impacted you where you are today.
Well, my parents had nothing to do with my entering market research. And, truth be told, I have a Bachelor’s in Fine Arts degree in photography for my undergrad. I really was going to go on a different direction. I thought I’d be a Life magazine photographer. Then quickly realized after spending a stint in L.A. my early years that it was a little tougher than I thought. But from a parents’ standpoint, my father was the typical 50s, 60s dad. He worked for Seagram’s, the liquor company, for 35 years. And my mother was a housewife who had a part-time job. And, you know, very typical… We lived in a Long Island tract house – not Levittown, but pretty close to it. I just think that, growing up, I just had a lot of challenges and things that I wanted to do more. And I knew that I was not growing up in an environment where across from where I lived on the other side of Long Island Sound was all the people who were in lower Fairfield County, Connecticut. And I had started out in advertising and just like was shocked about this whole different world of people, who were privileged and went to prep schools and stuff. So that kind of gave me this high motivation just to do better and do well. So, I kind of answered more than your question was. But that’s what got me going and getting into this career.
First of all, I love the fact that you have a diverse background. We did a separate interview recently, and the gentleman was talking, Clint, was talking about how you can draw stronger perspectives the more diverse the background of the individual as well as the team.
So, I mean photography…
Well, I was in photography, and then I went to L.A. to live with my sister for about a year. And then I wound up going back to Northwestern to get my degree in advertising from the Medill School back in the day when they had a dedicated advertising program and wound up graduating there and had like fifteen plus offers from all the agencies that I applied to. So, it went to from a barely C student in high school to an A+ student at Northwestern. Getting into these advertising degrees. So, I always felt in life if you’re really interested and motivated in something, that’s going to really get you going. Went into advertising, worked on the Oscar Mayer account. And they were one of the pioneers using behavior scan, which was a pioneering product that IRI Information Resources did with the scanner data. And it was my working with the Oscar Mayer account and I saw these people coming in from Information Resources and I was like: “Holy Cow, this is really cool stuff.” So I jumped, after being ten years in advertising, over to IRI. So, there’s another level of diversity and background, right? I was a frickin’ account guy at J. Walter Thompson.
Gosh, that is super interesting. I want to hone in a little bit on photography, right, because by definition photography is capturing a moment. I’m a bad amateur photographer. One of the things I’ve noticed – and probably actually my biggest takeaway from photography – has been my view with my eyes is so massively incomplete cause I can take a picture of something – I don’t know, it really doesn’t matter what – a bottle. And I can think it’s a spectacular picture, and then I’ll look at it, and all of a sudden, I realize, “Holy shit! My house is a wreck! Right?” It’s because the dishes are behind it and they’re undone or whatever. You know what I mean? [laughter] It’s like the bottle looks great but what a bad setup.
The bottle looks great, but what’s all that garbage in the background.
And you get desensitized to that sort of, you know that, to maybe the minutia, I guess. And photography, for me anyway, has been this illuminating view of, (no pun intended) created this lens, by which I get a more complete perspective. Have you drawn from your background in photography, may even passion in photography, and applied that to market research?
Wow! That’s a pretty heavy question. I never really thought about that. You know you do have in your mind… At least in my brain, I’ve always been a photographic- oriented memory person. So, if I think of memories… Like I am literally right here now looking at you the last time we spoke at a conference in that outside hallway. My brain sees you right now, standing next to whatever booth we were standing next to. So my brain has always worked that way. Some people remember things from songs. I tend to remember certain things with songs, but I’m a highly visual memory person. And there is a part of your brain when you do a lot of photography… I do photo books and things like that. I’m pretty serious about it. And you know I just have a lens that I just turn on in my head to look at a particular perspective on things. So, I never thought about whether that helps me in business. I think that if anything, it helps you in terms of the focus. When you’re in photography and you’re taking a photo, you almost just turn everything else off: you’re in the moment of capturing, composing, and seeing what’s going on, and then you do it. One of the things I started with when I was in photography was doing a lot of landscapes and very classic-like photos. Early on when I was young, I won a couple of photo contests: actually, won a 10-day cruise where I took my wife on for our honeymoon just by some cool photo I made. As I started doing more, I really became a really great street photographer. So I kind of have two sides to it. And street photography is very much… I mean I’ve got some amazing photos I did in New Delhi when I was in India, working for Anic years ago. That’s a very in-the-moment, almost instantaneous, gut reaction – I got to take this shot. And I’ve had like people comment to me like, “How did you get that shot?” And I’m like it’s like a subconscious: you just go with the flow, right? You just go with your gut. And I think maybe that has been the way I’ve conducted myself in business. I very much go a lot with the gut, go with the vibe of the moment. I go, “You know what, this is good.” Like some people read people, and they’re very good at that… versus people are very calculating and thoughtful, right? Neither one is right or wrong. It’s just the way your brain processes stuff. Interesting question, Jamin, and maybe that’s how that’s helped me in business.
Another part… There’s two things. More of a statement or comment. The other I want to dive just a little bit deeper here, but… And that is going with your gut… In a lot of ways, I’ve found as a get older, probably the one thing I do the best, or better, is pattern recognition, right? While it is obviously gut, it’s also based on more than a few decades…
I know exactly what you’re talking about. Yes, continue. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
And that’s it, right? “Oh, yeah, I’ve read that story or written that chapter before.”
Yeah, yeah, it’s the old “been there, done that,” but you apply that to the situations you’re in. It’s almost like… I’m sure you had the same when you were running Decipher. You have a bunch of seasoned people, but then you have tons and tons of junior people who are fresh out of school. I’ll forever… Somebody will just say to me, “Well, geez, how did you know that guy was doing that?” or “How did you know that woman was playing you?” or whatever it might be. And I’m just like, you know, “I’ve best to this dance a million times.” You kind of get to the point where you’re nobody’s fool anymore. Quit that. I think that’s what you’re talking about, right?
Exactly. You kind of start seeing things unfold and you can recognize, “OK.” Anyway, yeah. A hundred percent. And then the other part that is really interesting is your core business is creating visual representation and stories of abstract data. And that in a lot of ways is exactly what you do with a photograph, is tell a story.
So, have you applied that same… those lessons learned from your background in photography to the dashboards?
The really honest, honest answer is that I’m not the guy who’s building the dashboards. I’m the guy who’s out there talking to people conceptually about what you can do it, do with it, which maybe in many ways helps me. First and foremost, I’ve always been a sales and marketing guy, and I’m a salesman at heart. So, what I sell to people… Yes, that helps me do that. No doubt. And I’ve actually added some functionality and features (not much) but a couple things on to Dapresy that kind of fall in that vein of what you said. OK, geez, we got this tool that represents information this way. But, you know what? From a user’s standpoint, we really could use this and this and this to better now utilize that and represent it, which in many ways ties back to “How do I put these pictures together or these pieces together to tell a better story.” So, yeah, you know, it’s an interesting question. You really got me thinking cause I’ve never thought about this, tying those two together. So…
It’s funny, it’s funny how that background… at least from my vantage point. I have only been doing photography for a few years, so it’s probably a little different for me because it’s fresh, right? Those basic learning things like “Wow, my dishes haven’t been done. That’s really gross.” The fact that your core business is quite literally just storytelling and that’s exactly the same thing that you do with a…
You kind of kicked the side of my head here. At one point in my life, I had worked for… (This is prior to Information Resources.) I was at IRI for about ten years; I ran their info scan panel. This is back in the hay day when IRI and Nielson were going head to head, and IRI launched the scanner services. Well, to complement the scanner services, they had a huge household panel. And prior to going to IRI, I had worked in the 70s… It was the biggest research firm in the U.S. It was called MRCA (Market Research Corporation of America). I mean it’s a dinosaur. They used to go head to head with MPD. They’re out of business for many, many reasons we could talk about separately. But one of the things with panel data is panel data lets you tell a story. And I remember back in those days, there were clients that I would always go to the meetings with, and they would be talking about the information. And management would be there. And I’d say, “Hey, guys, think about it this way. I don’t mean to be sexist, but that was the day when you’d be like, “Look, your wife is going down the aisle with the kids. And this is what’s actually going on. This is what the data says, but this is actually what’s happening behind the data.” So, I always kind of had that proclivity. You know what I mean?
That’s just it. I don’t know if this is true or not, but I imagine that in some ways this is largely the value prop, which is a picture is worth a thousand words, right?
As you know I’m familiar with the product. And you guys have done a really good job of creating not just static but the interactive dashboards. So, you know, the broader point for me is it just continues to reinforce that to be really skilled in this space, you need to be able to draw from outside of the space, right? So it isn’t just a conversation with ourselves. You have to be able to operate at a macro-level and at a micro-level: micro where we’re doing the work, but at a macro-level where we can see the bigger picture, and then have the ability to draw in whether it’s outside talent or experiences that we’ve had or expertise that we’ve had to create the full picture.
No, no, keep going.
Let’s talk a little bit about Dapresy. Started in 2003. Tobi Andersson, the CEO and founder. You joined about ten years later.
What was the company like at that point and why were you so bullish on it?
Oh, I’ll tell you a little, funny story and answer your question at the same time. I was at the London Insights Show. (I’m sure you’ve attended that.) This was back in 2012, 2013, and I’m walking around the corner and I always tease Tobi ‘cause all the Swedes they look like they’re teenagers and blonde. [laughter] I look around the corner, and there’s this 16-year-old blonde, as I like to say, presenting this software. I’m in the back of the crowd, and I’m watching this. And I’m going, “Holy cow! This is really cool stuff.” So, I come back again, and I look at it. And I go, “This is really cool.” And there was a gentleman, who was a friend of mine, who ran a London-based research firm. And I said, “Hey, why don’t you come here and look at this stuff.” And he looks at it, and he goes, “That’s pretty cool.” So, I introduced myself to Tobi, and I tell him who I am. You know we get to talking. And, long story short, when there was a lull (I didn’t want to bother him), I said, “Hey, why haven’t you…? I’ve never heard of you before. Are you guys planning on coming to the U.S.? What’s going on?” And, you know, he was being coy for a few minutes. And then he goes, “Well, truth be told, we’re really not sure how to go to the U.S. We were thinking of maybe partnering with the U.S. Embassy.” Some corny thing he was telling me. And I looked at him, and I literally said these words, I said, “Today is our lucky day.” And I went out for lunch with him and his partner, Peter Bernstrom, ‘cause Peter is retired now, but Peter and Tobi started the firm together. I sprung out of a Nordic’s fieldhouse. So, they were really geeky researchers, right? And they were building lots of dashboards. And they realized this is insane. Every dashboard we build is a different version. It’s crazy to keep them up, which spring boarded into “Let’s have a communal platform that we can use.” So, went out to lunch with him and Peter. And, Jamin, it was one of those conversations – and you’ll know what I’m talking about. You start saying something, and the person ends the sentence; and then the other person says something, and YOU end the sentence; and then you say something, and they end your sentence. We were so in sync: it was one of those magical, magical moments. And then that night or the next night (I forget), I went out and had a four-hour dinner with Peter. And it was the funniest dinner I ever had because I thought that he was going to talk to me about business. He didn’t talk anything about business. I realized after the fact he just wanted to know, who’s this guy Rudy, what’s he about. Can I trust him? Normal guy, not normal guy? You know the normal stuff you do when you want to meet people. And that’s how we got it going. And I… The reason I was so excited is, as you know, I was the first CEO of Greenfield Online. And I got that company from zero to like 18 million, right? And we had revolutionized at Greenfield the field side collection. We had the first online panel that sprung out of the work I had done both at MRCA and Information Resources. I was a panel guy. And we originally thought it was going to be a panel, but it quickly became just a huge panel with a traditional market research firm attached to it. So we kind of revolutionized the collection of research data. And it was literally the first time that people had done online research. And Hugh Davis, who’s now the founder of the Critical Mix, he was the brains behind everything going on there. And he and I… the team built this thing up. So, I saw Dapresy, and I said, “Wow! Here’s a company that’s going to revolutionize the reporting. If Greenfield did the field work, Dapresy is all post-field and reporting. So that’s what got me very excited and continues to this day to keep me motivated. I mean you asked what was it like when I joined. I mean we were probably, oh God, 15 people between Europe and here. Now today we’re up to about 70 people. Revenue-wise ten years ago, I mean it was a tiny boutique with amazing clients. I mean TNS as a client and GFK over in Europe. And now, today you know we’ve got between Europe and here, we got a couple of hundred, 250 research firms and a handful of really blue-chip enterprises that are using us. And the software, it’s like night-and-day difference from the past five years, where it was five years ago and today. You can’t even compare. It’s been an interesting ride.
Yeah, congratulations on that. One of the things, thinking about your Greenfield Online… For those who don’t know, actually probably the most successful panel company early on by a wide margin. In fact, filed IPO, went public and then eventually sold to Microsoft for quite a bit of money. Very successful outcome in those days. You left that space or that sample space. It’s really the data reporting side or the data visualization side has largely… I believe that it’s the fruit on the vine still, right? I like… I don’t know if you had a chance to listen to my interview with Rogier Verhultst, the head of Insights for Linkin. He had this great quote or saying, which was “Yeah, you gave me your research report. So what and now what?”, which is largely what Dapresy is communicating in a visual form, right?
Yeah, the goal is, as our client Adeo well had said quite a while ago, the goal is to democratize the data, right? You really have a pretty diverse group of people in the market research field. And I can say that there’s really a binary reaction to what we do. You have the traditional, old-school, “wrap your arms around the data,” “I don’t want to give anybody anything” unless I bless it and see it, right? In many ways, they’re crippling their organization by being such tight gatekeepers on the data. And then, on the other hand, (and this is true about most of the clients we work with), people have become more enlightened to the fact that, if you have a system and a system allows you to put out information… In our system, you can control data access and functionality right down to the individual user. So you’re not going to give people data that they don’t know what to do. You’re not going to give somebody a cross-table if they don’t know what a cross-table is. You know, if you’re giving data out to senior management, it’s going to be metrics-based. And, if you have metrics-based with… You know, if you’re giving data to the CEO of a Coca Cola, why not put the data sitting on top of a Coca Cola can? Even better, why not have the Coca Cola can fill up with the data? And, if you’re talking about females and males and families and whatever, why not, instead of saying you know, “We have this thing that we show people.” The classic PowerPoint says, “Automobile trips have risen by 10%.” Well, why do you need to say that when you can have on a metrics-based dashboard an automobile and it says plus 10%? I mean it says it without saying it. And that’s really the trick behind it. It’s basically getting rid of this pedestrian, pedantic, very clunky way of reporting and putting it into something. And, again, those traditional researchers think, “Oh, that picture is getting in the way.” And they don’t realize that picture is enhancing it by an order of magnitude and wanting people to self-serve, right? Wanting people to take that and go, “Wow! Can I filter this by this geography? Click, click, yeah, geez!” The Coca Cola guy, “How is this affecting Coke Zero? Click, update, ahh.” Or, “Do I want a Coke Zero and Coke next to each other?” You can just do that. Why wouldn’t anybody want that? So, that’s self-serving obviously. [laughs] But that’s the reality of the market we’re in. So, we still in that early adopter, trying to push ourselves into the main stream. It’s a tough crowd in research; you know that.
It is, and actually this particular issue that you’re wrestling with – the visualization of insights – is, I believe, one of the hardest things probably, honestly, probably the hardest thing to do because there is… Obviously, science is the underpinnings, but the art is as important because it has to be.. there’s that communication piece. So it gets really tough – not impossible by any means – but it gets tough to crack the nut of one-size-fits-all research. SurveyMonkey went public this week. (It’ll be about three weeks til this episode airs.) Which is a big thing for our space. There hasn’t been another material IPO that I’m aware of in the data collection space or data logistics space really since Greenfield. What trends are you seeing and how do you think, if at all, the SurveyMonkey IPO will impact our industry?
How it impacts the industry I don’t know other than it’s going to give them a gob, a load of money to buy up other companies. I wouldn’t be surprised if they start adding in aggressively more and more functions to what they’re doing and more and more companies to enhance their offering, right? That makes sense to me. I don’t know. I don’t believe they’re doing, for example, text analytics but you go public and you have a gob of cash, “Well, let’s go buy a text analytics company.” “Let’s add in some other functionality.” I do know one of your questions you had asked about was “With the industry, what do you see in trends?”’ I just think that larger mash-ups. Look at Ipsos now buying GFK. We just had… SSI and Research Now. We work with LRW and Kelton; they both merged together or LRW swallowed up Kelton. What I think that’s doing, on one hand, is bringing back – especially the LRW-Kelton merge, not merge but acquisition… The middle-sized research firm seems to be starting to come back. And I think these monster mash-ups are really spurring more startups and smaller companies to go out there because, you know, like you said earlier. We were talking earlier… working for a big firm isn’t necessarily what you wanted to do anymore. And I think… at least, I’m seeing a whole plethora of research firms out there that I’d never even HEARD of before. I ran into one a couple of weeks ago: it’s a 100-person research firm I’d never heard of before.
Which is crazy, right? And there’s a ton of money that I’m seeing enter the space. Our sister podcast done by Alexandra’s MRX News… It’s just a podcast, two-minute industry briefing. We’ve been paying attention to the news cause we’re curating it now. It’s a different sort of thing. I’m blown away by the number of mergers, acquisitions, and funding that is happening. I mean it’s literally every… Like our news is there is no M & A today. That’s a breaking story. [laughter] Right?
That’s pretty funny.
And it’s true too. It’s true. So, you’ve been a successful entrepreneur; you’ve been a successful key executive. One of the things I like to do is try to pry the secrets out a little bit, right? What is one of your secrets that drives growth, profitability, and success?
I knew you were going to ask something about this. I don’t know if this does affect all of it, but I really think that empowering your employees is probably the most important thing you can do running a company. You just can’t run a firm, especially in the service business that we’ve both been in, without giving people empowerment and letting them know that they can make decisions in front of clients in real time and not having to feel like everything has to go through committee and get a final approval in three weeks. We would be dead in the water just as your company that you started would have been dead in the water. So I think that’s really, really important. And then I think the second thing is the focus on solid marketing, benefits-driven marketing as opposed to features only. There’s a fine line there because oftentimes, especially in the industry you’re in, the feature is the benefit. So you have to play with that, but… You asked about when I started with Dapresy. Five years ago, if you saw a Dapresy presentation and you talked about what it is they were focusing on, it was a lot of features. Today we say, “Hey, Dapresy is efficient production and effective reporting.” That distills down everything we do into those key two benefits. So I think that’s very important for any company. And then getting good – what I call – coin-operated sales people. Think about a vending machine. You feed it money. Well, you got to have coin-operated sales people. And that to me has always been another critical piece to the pie. So, that’s my two cents on that.
No pun intended. With the employee’s side, thinking about employee empowerment, can you give us an example of exactly what that has looked like for you?
Well, I think if you… In order to do that, I think you need a couple of things. You need an employee that is self-motivated, right? It’s just not cool to work with people that you have to hold their hand and spoon-feed them everything they do. Now granted when you have new people… But even we’ve seen it here. We hire… Most of our highly successful employees are graduates from the local University of New Hampshire. And oftentimes they come out of the business or data management or the stats side of the business. So, if they have a proclivity for numbers, we know that they get research, and they know their way around a mouse. They come in and they can be pretty successful here. We also look for people who are really smart as does everyone, right. And for me personally, I think the key to that empowerment and having a really good employee is somebody who pushes back. I mean I can’t tell you how, for me personally, important that is. And a silly example is, I give you on Monday a list of ten things to do in an update meeting. Later on in the week, somebody comes back and says, “You know you gave us ten things. We did the first three; the second three we’re still thinking about; and these other four – they make no sense. You don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.” [laughter] I love that! That’s the way it should be, right? Granted there’s exceptions, right? I’m not talking about telling somebody to put a contract together but, if it’s working on something and working through a problem, I don’t have all the answers. I have the experience; I have knowledge and years behind me. But I don’t necessarily have the insights that you might have if you’re working directly with a client. So I think motivation, brains, and the ability to filter and push back and even add to a list, to me makes a great employee.
Yeah, totally. Have a point of view even if the point of view is wrong, the fact that the employee is bringing that to the table means that they’re taking an ownership position as opposed to more of that passive doer. That’s a pretty powerful combination when you can get that tethered with a little bit of humility and confidence.
What is Dapresy offering right now that is finding purchase and adding a lot of value in the market place?
Well, there’s one key thing that we offer, and that is a better way post-field to produce efficiently and report effectively all in one automated system. And, conceptually, when you tell people that, especially senior people, they get that; they like that. The devil, of course, is in the details when you’re dealing with some of the people I alluded to earlier, who were so stuck in their way that they can’t understand a world where a 200-page PowerPoint deck for a brand tracker can be replaced with a 10-slide, highly filterable, and dynamically configurable dashboard. You know it just kind of boggles their mind. So that’s really the challenge, and again that’s where you get this early adopter going into mainstream people. Is that what you were asking or did I…?
No, that’s exactly right. And so, I do have one question on this topic from a channel strategy perspective. Are you guys integrating with survey platforms like a SurveyMonkey? One of the things that is unique about – I say “unique” but it isn’t unique anymore – but one of the transitions that survey platforms have gone through is they largely started generic and then they moved into being specific. So, for example, every survey platform has a net promoter score survey, right? Are you guys integrating with some of these platforms for automated dashboarding?
Yes, but… I’ll leave it like that. So on the integration side, we have API’s to almost all the major platforms. So, we have an API out of SurveyMonkey, SurveyGizmo, Voxco, Nebo, Questback, obviously Decipher, Qualtrics – all the major platforms we have that if they have a published API. But, even if they don’t have a published API, we still can have those platforms exported out – let’s say in a SPSS file to an FTP site we can pick it up. We’ve made a decision to be somewhat platform-agnostic. The advantage to the client is you put all your survey work or you put some of your key tracking studies or you use ad hoc production with a Dapresy and then, all of sudden, somebody decides, “Well, geez, I’ve been working with this survey tool and this other survey tool came along with better functions, better features, or better pricing, right?” Let’s face it: a lot of that is driven by price. Well, if you’re tied to a survey reporting engine that’s with the survey tool, all of that reporting goes away. And, truth be told, in my experience, except for very basic, basic reporting, most people use other things for reporting than the survey tool. So we stayed agnostic there.
Got it. That makes a lot of sense. Today my guest has been Rudy Nadilo, President of Dapresy. Rudy, thank you very much for being on the Happy Market Research podcast.
Jamin, this was great. Thank you so much.
Next time on the Happy Market Research Podcast, KaRene Smith has recently started Shine Insights. Please join us in our next episode where she breaks down how to create agile methodologies for your research.