You’re probably familiar with the idea of a “win-win” outcome, but what about a “win-win-win” outcome? Market and consumer insights play a central role in ensuring that consumers, retailers, and brands all win.
In this episode of the Consumer Insights Podcast, Thor is joined by Emilia Simonin, Head of Global Market Intelligence at Moët Hennessy.
- How consumer understanding is at the core of a variety of roles
- The role of insights in business growth
- Unpacking 3-Way-Win outcomes and what goes into them
- What to consider when transforming org culture to be more insights-driven
- Why the support of senior management is essential
- How to balance centralization and decentralization in global insights roles
- The importance of empathy in stakeholder relationships
- Why to prioritize un-caging insights
- The benefits of international insights careers
- Why diversity is essential in insights teams
- And more!
If you’re interested in learning how leveraging insights and empathy can benefit all parties involved in the consumer purchase journey, tune in to this episode of the Consumer Insights Podcast.
Thor Olof Philogène:
Welcome to The Consumer Insights Podcast. Every episode, we speak with an insights leader from one of the world's leading brands to hear how they're integrating consumer insights into strategy to move business forward. I'm your host, Thor Olof Philogène. Hello everyone, and welcome to The Consumer Insights Podcast. Today I'm excited to have an incredible Insights leader joining me for what I know will be an illuminating conversation. I'm thrilled to introduce today's guest Emilia Simonin, Head of Global Market Intelligence at Moet Hennessy, where she spearheads a global go-to-market framework grounded in data to support the sustainable growth of premium wine and spirits in markets. Amelia is a marketing expert with a wealth of experience turning trends and insights into business strategies for growth. Having built an international insights career, she's worked across various consumer goods categories in Australia, the UK and France. She also has a master's degree in Marketing Management from Macquarie Business School. Thank you so much for joining me, Amelia.
Emilia Simonin - 00:01:23:
Thank you for having me. I'm very excited to be talking to you, Thor.
Thor - 00:01:27:
Let's dive right in. Can you take a couple of minutes to tell us about yourself, your company and how you got to where you are today? How did it start?
Emilia - 00:01:38:
So I'm an Australian-Macedonian, currently living in France with my family, and if I start right at the beginning, I actually wanted to be a school teacher. Growing up I loved learning, I loved acquiring knowledge, and in fact, my cousins used to make fun of me for saving up all my pocket money to buy more books. And it wasn't until my senior years in high school that I discovered Business Studies and Marketing, and I'm a marketer at heart. I went on to study a Bachelor of Business and Commerce at University and later finished a Master's in Marketing Management, which took me to Paris to study luxury brand strategy. And those who have studied luxury brand strategy will tell you that it's only available in France, which is essentially how I am with LVMH, today in the Moet Hennessy business.
If I think about it, there is one red thread throughout my entire career and that is chasing consumer understanding in some way, shape or form throughout
And I think if I look back over my career over the past 20 years, I'd probably cut it up into two parts. I would say the first half was very much about the business and marketing roles. And when I say business roles, sort of looking at shopper strategy, category development and sort of moving across and then the second half would be more specific insights and data roles. If I think about it, there is one red thread throughout my entire career and that is chasing consumer understanding in some way, shape or form throughout. Even in the early part of my career, I started in product management back in the early two thousand s. The marketer was responsible for all of it, including the Insights work. The companies that I worked for didn't have an internal insights function. And so it was the marketer's job to understand the consumer, to build campaigns that address their needs and appeal to them to get it into market and ultimately to measure effectiveness afterwards. So I'd say I've been working inside but more or less all along.
Thor - 00:03:32:
I think it's so interesting that you started out saying that you're a marketer at heart and having started off in product management. With that said, you're now in insights and you seem to be passionate about it. So as an Insights Leader, how do you define an insight?
Emilia - 00:03:49:
It's a really good question. I think I would probably describe myself these days more as an all rounder. And for me, the way I've always seen Insights is very much about having some form of deep understanding, be it about a consumer, a category, a shopper, when consumers wear a different hat and for me that deep understanding. When it's combined with a really strong discipline, it can be leveraged across an entire organization for growth. I feel like we are all in business for growth and I think through this definition, I guess, of Insights it's really very much about competitive advantage and really sort of getting a leg up on the market.
Thor - 00:04:29:
Definitely. And you've mentioned that you're always focused on a three way win outcome. Can you tell us more about this and how does this inform your approach to insights work?
Emilia - 00:04:43:
It's a really great question and I'll start by defining what I mean, I guess by a three way win. And by no means was it my own original idea. It was something that I picked up in one of my organizations that I've worked in and it really resonated with me and it's something I've taken throughout. The three way win is very much about the consumer, the brand and usually I've worked on client side, I'm usually on the brand custodian side or the customer. So all of us have customers who sell to our consumers and it really needs to be a win for everybody for something to work or a strategy or execution plan to get through. And by having this mantra in an organization I find that only the right things get through.
Thor - 00:05:27:
Do you have any stories you can share about times during your career when you've achieved a three way outcome and what was the insight that created the opportunity and how is that insight identified?
Emilia - 00:05:39:
A really good example, one that sticks out for me was around the time I started working with Moet Hennessy. Moet Hennessy is, as you know, the category captain almost at a global level when it comes to champagne and we were challenged by our customers, not challenged, I guess, a request, if you will, came through around helping them grow the category and the business came to the Insights function to try and help solve this. And essentially what we did was we were looking at how the champagne consumer was experiencing the shopping journey at present and what we knew about that. So the insights that sort of came out of that were that we knew that the Champagne shoppers were very dissatisfied with the shopping experience. It was often a dusty liquor store. We knew that they had a very long dwell time at the shelf, but we didn't know why. Was it because they were confused and they couldn't choose the product because they were really overly engaged. But the former Insight would sort of say it was the latter. We also had a situation where we were trying to help our customers, I guess, design their in store environment. So how does a Champagne shopper navigate the store? Where do we place the champagne? How do we plan the ground the Champagne? And so insight sort of came in and we conducted a sort of multidimensional campaign where we were observing shoppers. So it was bit of quality and bit of quant. We were interviewing them in store, we were intercepting them, asking them about their experiences. We tested a whole bunch of planograms, so we use quant for that. So the customer that we partnered had a lot of stores, quite a big footprint, so we could have different environments to test. And they had, I guess, a bit of an overwind well, not a bit, a lot of an over index with the Champagne consumer. So we had the right environments and they shared their sales data with us to help us, I guess, optimize the planogram for them. We tested a whole bunch of different planograms and there were some insights that they learned from that experience as well, where they realized a lot of their store managers were having subjective opinions on what was working and what was not working.
Long story short, they grew vintage by 500%. They grew the Champagne category from 200%, depending on the brands and the stores. And there was various results, but the customer was really, really happy and it was a true example of a partnership because we don't own that touch point
That was a really interesting outcome as well. And I guess in terms of the results for us, I mean, I don't work for the customer. I don't know what they're doing still now. But I know at the time we were able to really help them optimize their stores, the different footprints and the different planograms in sales figures, we redesigned the stores. We made it more engaging to Champagne to shop Champagne, which is a higher value product. We stole from other categories, we stole from travel, retail. The insight was it's a really awful experience in store. So we made it a really premium experience in store. We unlocked the higher margin product, the vintage. And you'll know, when you walk into a liquor store, it's locked away and you've got to go find someone and you can't find it. So they were really missing a great opportunity with trading people up. And we essentially pulled everything out of lock and key, brought it closer. Long story short, they grew vintage by 500%. They grew the Champagne category from 200%, depending on the brands and the stores. And there was various results, but the customer was really, really happy and it was a true example of a partnership because we don't own that touch point. And it's a combination, I think, of our retailers are very good at retailing and understanding, I guess, the coalface. But as category captains we have a responsibility to bring thought leadership as well.
Thor - 00:09:11:
That's an incredible uplift, and switching gears a bit. You've got a lot of experience working across stakeholder groups and you've also led the initiatives to shift organizational culture and capability to become and be more Insights driven. Could you tell us more about why and how you've done that?
On achieving an insights driven culture
Emilia - 00:09:31:
We were fortunate enough to have I've worked in quite a few transformational roles and I seem to get a lot of energy and buzz from that and perhaps it's because I'm a bit more of an all rounder. But starting off at Moet Hennessy I've had two transformational roles. The first one was very much about changing that culture but it was initiated by the leadership team. I can't emphasize enough how the Insights function needs to be sponsored by senior leadership.
We started off in baby steps. I think it's really important for Insights professionals not to be too hard on themselves.
They need to see the benefit and the need for Insights as a whole. Without their sponsorship, I feel it's very hard to really shift the culture. And so in this particular instance it was the managing director, I was in the market at the time, managing director that initiated it was led by the marketing director and the commercial director. We started off in baby steps. I think it's really important for Insights professionals not to be too hard on themselves. There's a lot of literature on this. McKinsey talks about all the stages. I think for me it took at least three years to change the culture and it was really about showing bite size benefits of starting to use insights in their day to day work. And the transformation, if it is really sponsored well, can be incredible. By the time I left this particular business unit I had account managers, sales managers who were quoting Insights to me before preparing to go into a business review or a meeting. For me that's something that I think the business as a whole can benefit. I don't think it impacts any one part of the business, it impacts everybody.
Thor - 00:11:06:
On a related note, you're also quite skilled in managing the tension between centralization and decentralization of Insights. What advice would you give to other Insights leaders who are faced with the same challenge?
Emilia - 00:11:19:
I think for me it's a case of seek to understand. I've worked most of my career in market and I think market it's really important to point out, I mean, these guys are busy, it's an operational role. They're busy getting product out and selling product and managing market dynamics and retailer execution, et cetera. And I think anybody I would first of all recommend that Insights professionals try both. I think you can't empathize with one or the other until you've worked in both roles. But when I came into my global role. I think one of my big mottos was very much about seek to understand because there are so many nuances between markets and you'll never understand them all. And I think being able to have that empathy of actually, what is that market dealing with day to day? I think a global function should be there to support and to help. You can't do that if you don't understand what a market is experiencing. And in my roles in global, I've always consulted the market if it's a global framework, or if it's something that we want them to take up, or if it's something that we want to share with them, or if it's a global subscription we want to purchase, we always check, it's always a consulting. So when you say decentralized and centralized, I think even when it's centralized, I think it's a partnership with markets.
Thor - 00:12:38:
I really like the fact that you talk about empathy between you and other markets because obviously they are facing completely different challenges and there are local challenges that are hard to understand, maybe from HQ. Can we spend a bit more time on that empathy side? What advice would you give people that are in this situation? What advice could you give them in terms of applying that and making that happen?
Emilia - 00:13:03:
I would say it's really important to have worked in market. Anybody who's been in a global role for a really long time, I would absolutely say get out there and get into a market. Because a market can show sales results a global central team cannot.
Actually one of the biggest pieces of advice I give people I mentor is the more experience you have in different roles, the more impactful you are, be it in a central office or a market, I mean, move across functions as well. I think that makes a much more powerful insights leader.
I think if you in that environment as an insights professional, you have the opportunity to test and learn and to see how one type of insight what that delivers, another kind of insight where that can deliver. Because really I feel insight services the entire organization and if I loosely group my stakeholders, I've got management, I've got markets and then I've got Maison so what I call that, they are our brands who also sit in the central team. I think there's so many different types of insights and no one function delivers end to end. So I think you need to have experienced all facets. Actually one of the biggest pieces of advice I give people I mentor is the more experience you have in different roles, the more impactful you are, be it in a central office or a market, I mean, move across functions as well. I think that makes a much more powerful insights leader.
Thor - 00:14:17:
I think that's really interesting because it tells you a bit more about experiences that will then serve you well in your more senior positions. But if we take a different angle and we take a look a bit more about how you can support your teams with tooling, what tools do you believe are essential to support insights professionals and why?
Emilia - 00:14:37:
I think the number one rule, and it's been said time and time again. But I'm going to say it anyway. It's about uncapping the insights and I think in more recent years that's been sort of the buzz. Once upon a time one function paid for some research and they held it very close and they were scared it was going to get into the wrong hands or misunderstood. I think now it's very much about upcagging insights and I think having knowledge management platforms like Stravito for example, which is the platform we use, is one of the biggest, biggest I think catalysts for change of having insights being used and accessed across an organization. I think outside of sort of using some platforms and software to make things more accessible, I think it's still very much a human project. I don't think that we're evolved enough to have a marketer, for example, know what to ask for.
I think we are no longer just researchers, I think we are internal consultants and we should be part of the internal strategic ecosystem where we are actually advising.
I think it's still very much the insights person's job to really I guess it's not just about delivering the research, it's about the strategic mindset of an insights professional. I think we are no longer just researchers, I think we are internal consultants and we should be part of the internal strategic ecosystem where we are actually advising. So I think the human element is really hard to overcome. But on that note, I would probably say in my career I've always worked client side. Unfortunately I didn't have a chance to do agency side but my agency partners again the human side had a huge impact or a huge element of when I have had successes because we are quite closed in in terms of the problem we're trying to solve. Agency partners tend to work across different categories, different industries, they work with different types of professionals who have different backgrounds and often the insights function is very lean. The honest truth is we never have enough people and I think to be able to lean into a relationship with an agency partner. In my opinion. I've always treated them as an extended arm of my team or my function and trusted them and given them the proper context in a brief and the real environment. And here's the politics and here's the situation. And as a result, I can't thank enough the different agencies I've worked with over the years in getting to the solution faster. So I would probably say it's a combination of some quick fixed tools but mostly still a very human function.
Thor - 00:17:04:
And you also, have quite a bit of experience working internationally. What are some of the things you've learned working in different countries and you've touched on some but also being responsible for global insights like you are in your current role?
A global insights culture
Emilia - 00:17:19:
I think the international aspect is going to contribute and I recommend it to anybody. I've loved my international posts. It's going to contribute to that all rounder aspect that I talked about earlier. The things I've learned is culture is king when you move from one market to another. You have not only the cultural aspect in the organization, so organizational culture will change from country to country. So there's a learning there. But then consumers are conditioned differently culturally from market to market. So I guess your tools and your techniques are going to change. I think from a personal level, what the international and people talk about international experience and what does it really mean? I think for me, it teaches you to adapt quickly and it teaches you to ask a lot of questions. And that motto has stuck with me. I mentioned it earlier seek to understand. I think that if anything else, you learn to learn quickly as well and you learn to ask questions. So I think it just adds to somebody's personal development as much as it does to the technical skill set.
Thor - 00:18:20:
I absolutely love that. And I also know that one of your passions is diversity. You've led think tanks, forums and support networks. What do you think Insights leaders can do to encourage more diverse leadership and also teams in the industry?
Emilia - 00:18:38:
I think the different backgrounds. I think diversity is really, really important for Insights. And I think about my own experience, I didn't start in the traditional insight sense, I didn't study that, and I didn't start off in an agency and develop the research technical skills like most of us do. But I think diversity, especially if insights, is really going to become the strategic function that it should be, you're going to need diverse people in the teams and diverse backgrounds and diverse experience. And if I think of some really famous examples, I know Steve Jobs has been mentioned quite a lot in our industry. I mean, he dropped out of school and he dropped into calligraphy classes. And they say that was the catalyst for Max early success. When you talk about the type fonts, you have people like Cindy Crawford studied bioengineering, you had some Mick Jagger studied economics. There's all these famous examples of people who excelled in what they chose to do, but it wasn't what they were trained in. So I think diversity does bring wonderful things. If you can let it in, if you can get past the bias.
Thor - 00:19:45:
That's a brilliant example. And if we continue on the topic of leading teams, what would you say is the DNA of a successful insights team?
The DNA for a successful team
Emilia - 00:19:54:
For me, it's again, that diversity and having different skill sets that can sort of work together. We talk a lot about this and the cliche apologies, but it's very much about curious mindsets. You have to be somebody who asks a lot of questions. I think you need people who can connect the dots and have that sort of skill set, regardless of what kind of background they have that got them there. I think something that gets overlooked a lot as well. And it was perhaps my passion as a child wanting to be a teacher.
Knowledge is king, as they say, and usually the Insights team are sitting on a lot of information
But I think we are teachers. Most of my decades long career in insights and versions of insights in different facets has been teaching, and we talked about it earlier in the transformational roles. It's teaching people either how to read the insight, teaching different teams how they can use an insight, teaching how we can help their goals. So if it's a marketing plan or it's a commercial team trying to win business, so it's a competitive advantage. I think ultimately we are teachers, and I'm a very big fan of education in general. I think it changes lives, it changes the world. Knowledge is king, as they say, and usually the Insights team are sitting on a lot of information. It's our responsibility and it's our job to make sure different parts of the organization, we're passing on the knowledge where it's needed. And so I feel like that's probably something that gets overlooked a little bit as well, from a skill set perspective.
Thor - 00:21:16:
And building on that, because I think it's super relevant. What are the people that have taught you? What are the people who have inspired you during the course of your career? And what's the best career advice you've ever received?
Emilia - 00:21:29:
So I think for me, probably the best career advice I've received. And again, if we apply it to the insights world and industry it's something that we sort of struggle with as well because we're often asking for something more resource, more budget, bigger teams trying to you know, we might be sitting on a nugget of gold and we're trying to get people to use it and action it and believe it. So something that the best advice I got given was learning how to synthesize a lot of information and giving the elevator pitch. When you think of shark tanks and being able to present or influence senior management because I feel like one of the most frustrating pieces or aspects of being an insights professional is when you know something and no one will listen. I would say probably that being able to do that, it's been a really big piece of advice in my career.
Thor - 00:22:27:
That's such a good piece of advice. And when you look ahead, what opportunities do you think there are for Insights professionals to make true business impact? How can they challenge the status quo?
Emilia - 00:22:41:
So I think for us, probably something that I know I've been struggling with is probably being able to prove ROI. I find it very, very difficult, particularly when we're working on longer term strategic initiatives. And again, we're usually asking for budget, and we can't demonstrate ROI the way a sales team can, for example. So I think one of the challenges we face is really trying to prove ROI and trying to find a way to make sure the good work is continuing.
But the question I pose to our industry is are we equipped for the next decade, the next 20 years, 30 years, 50 years?
And I think probably for us as well, in the future, the world is changing really fast. We know that technology speeds everything up and I don't have the answer. But the question I pose to our industry is are we equipped for the next decade, the next 20 years, 30 years, 50 years? What does a consumer's world look like in 50 years time? How do they behave, how are we going to track it and how are we going to make that impact? I think in the future is a question I ask myself as well.
Thor - 00:23:43:
That's a brilliant question and I think it will resonate with all of our listeners. And if we stay on that topic for a second and we stay on the challenges side, you raise the are we equipped for the next 20 to 50 years? How do we understand how that evolution is going to look like if we dig a bit deeper there? What are the big challenges you see that will face insights, professional and the wider industry in that near future?
Emilia - 00:24:11:
I know there's a difference between insights and data and fact and stat and all that sort of thing, but I think one of the big challenges we face is as technology helps us, we're getting more and more data and we sit on a lot of data. And I feel like and I've worked already with a lot of customers in my sort of more customer facing roles where they come to us often because they sit on a lot of transactional data and they ask for our help in analyzing it and finding an insight or finding something out of that that is going to influence future strategy. So I think we've moved on from this period or this era of more data, more data, more data. And we're rightly. So now in this more sort of this environment of the so what is the insight? What's the AHA. But I think this is going to be a challenge for us because, again, we are responsible for educating the organization, and sometimes it's educating senior management on what parts of the data collection process are going to be important and what's relevant for now. And I think the other part of that question is probably more around this reliance on technology. I mentioned it earlier, I think it's the human mind, the human brain that is strategic. A robot can help us absolutely automate things and take the grunt work away from us. That would be great and it's already happening, but I think ultimately it's still going to be a human mind that is going to move the needle. So that over reliance on technology is probably a bit of a watch out for us as well.
Thor - 00:25:45:
I will definitely quote you on this one. That was very beautifully said. Unfortunately, we've come to the sad part, which is the end of this conversation and it really hurts me. But there is one more question that I love to ask, that I always ask, which is who in the world of insights would you love to have lunch with?
On who she would like to have lunch with
Emilia - 00:26:05:
That's a great question. And I probably have a couple for you. And it's just probably continuing on with some of the theme of what we've talked about, I've got an inspirational one for you and I've got probably one closer to home, which was more of a question, but for me, an inspirational one I would love. This person is unfortunately no longer with us. It's an ancient figure. Aristotle was, for me, the eternal teacher, tutor to kings and very powerful kings. Alexander the Great was one of them. He was his high school teacher.
it's really, again, this strategic mindset that we are really tasked, and that's what I believe is our role in the organization.
And to me, he was considered to be one of the most influential thinkers off all time. When we talk about some of the subjects and questions you've asked me, we are, as insights professionals, very much needing to be influential throughout the organization, whether it be to get the right knowledge in the right hand, to get the right action, to get the right resource. And so for me, the other point about Aristotle is that he was an all rounder. They say his work was the groundwork for modern day science. He went from physics to metaphysics to psychology to politics to economics. It's really, again, this strategic mindset that we are really tasked, and that's what I believe is our role in the organization. And one closer to home for me, which changed the sort of the course of my career, was a little book called the, Luxury Brand Strategy. And it was a book that I studied in Paris as part of my master's. I studied International Marketing and Luxury Strategy in Paris. And the book is written by Jean-Noël Kapferer. I hope he'll forgive me if I've mispronounced his name. And he has a co-author in this particular book, which is Vincent Bastien. Again, he's also a strategic mind. He works with brands and marketers, again, close to my heart, but he's a very, very active researcher and he uses research as a basis for a lot of the work in the books he publishes and the consulting work that he does. So for me, he's somebody super inspirational and that's when I entered the luxury sector, it changed my career.
Thor - 00:27:56:
Well, thank you so much there, Emilia. And thank you for the bonus. We got an extra inspiration or person for the lunch and we also got a book tip, so thank you so much for that. Wow. This has been such an illuminating conversation, Amelia, and you've shared so much wisdom that I think we can learn from. If I play back some of the pieces that have really resonated with me, I think you started out by reminding us that at the end of the day, we're all in the business for growth. An insight is of some form of deep understanding that when it's combined with a strong discipline, can be leveraged for growth. In terms of tooling to support insights work, the number one rule is, as you said, uncage the insights. As such, insights management tools are great, but remember that it remains a very human led work. As Insights leaders, we are strategic consultants and we need to take on an advising role. The best career advice you've received is the importance of learning how to synthesize and to give the elevator pitch that will be your superpower to pitch and influence the executive team and senior leadership. I will end with something very beautiful that you said that the human brain is strategic but ultimately will be a human mind that will move the needle for the future. I know that I've learned a lot from talking to you today and I'm sure our audience has as well. Thank you so much for joining me.
Emilia - 00:29:30:
Thanks for having me, Thor.