Paul Blunden: Hello and welcome to another interview in my series, where I’m. Speaking to one of our many global Ux research practitioners from around the world. My name is Paul London, and I’m, founder of UX24/7, and we help global brands, be more customer, centric to deliver better products and services.
So let’s find out who we are going to speak to today.
Hello and thank you for giving your time up to speak with me today. Can I stop asking you to introduce yourself? What’s your name? And where about you located?
Brian Loeb: Sure, Hi! I’m Brian Loeb and I work out of Spain
Well, I I can tell by your accent that you’re not native. How long have you been in Spain? Brian.
Brian Loeb: i’ve lived here since? Well, about 22 years on this spell, though I did have a stint in in London for about a year back in 2,013. But and then back in the nineties. I also lived in Spain for 3 years. so but I’m. Originally from California in the U.S.A.
Paul Blunden: Lately, and then, I presume, after living in Spain so long. You you flu in Spanish now.
Brian Loeb: Yes, I I keep my accent. It’s kind of you know, one of my trademarks, but the Spanish is fluid where they with a nice American accent, kind of. as I speak Spanish.
Paul Blunden: Well, it’s so many of our researchers are multilingual. Do you run research in in English and Spanish.
Brian Loeb: Yeah, that I do. It’s probably about 50 50 now especially since Covid with a lot of the remote methodology. So I get a lot more Uk and us work. But up until before, like 2,018, it was almost a 100% in Spanish.
Paul Blunden: And you do you speak any other languages.
Brian Loeb: No
Paul Blunden: two’s plenty.
Brian Loeb: some a little bit of a really bad Catalan, because I also lived in Barcelona for 9 years.
Paul Blunden: Oh, right lovely nice to get around Spain a bit, and that how did you get into research?
Brian Loeb: Well, I was see. I always enjoyed research, even back when I was doing a degrees. I did a great in Latin, American and Iberian studies. and you know, a lot of those were kind of research projects. I’m actually going out. We go, we go to libraries back in those days, and we do there. We get to together secondary information sources, and then we go out, and we interview people in the industry and experts. So I really like that. And then that continued, when I did an Mba. And similarly I was attracted to research, and I did a an internship for a investment banking firm doing research into equity equity research, which is basically just companies that are trading in on the stock market. and so it involved a lot of look research in the markets, but then also interviewing executives and experts. And and so and then, when the.com boom in San Francisco exploded, I couldn’t resist, and I and I went, and I joined different dot coms. I found that consumer research was one of the most interesting, and that consumer behavior was. and that the probably the most fascinating thing I could be looking at. And And so yeah, I I actually took up a kind of a research and analysis roles with those.com and tech start ups.
Paul Blunden: Well, it’s a It’s a fascinating time to be in research. Isn’t it? The interface between humans and technology, I think, has been the last 20 years has been yeah intriguing, to say the least.
Brian Loeb: Yeah, yeah, no. Well, even 20, 5, or even even more, I think I don’t know for me. It was like 97 when we really started.
Brian Loeb: We got on the Internet. We were on it every day pretty much.
Paul Blunden: Yeah. Oh, yeah, I remember my first computer around that time, I think. And then you, You’ve obviously been doing research a long time. Do you have a favorite methodology or methodologies you you like to use or you enjoy?
Brian Loeb: Yeah. I mean, I think I really like them all, and but I like them. especially like when they get kind of mixed up and mashed together. and especially over time. So if it’s a so, I would have to say asynchronous call, usually like an online community or a bulletin board. However, you want to kind of. Look at it. But where, you know you mix up you have participants doing text responses. But then they also do video responses. They post photos that which can be on themselves or the post found content off of the web.
And then, yeah, you enter in conversations with them in in the sense that you’re doing probes and and things like that, and then you know. And then, if you always, if you really want to kind of get face to face with them. You can set up, you know, a 20 min video conference. And and so it really allows you to kind of get the most of all that the best of all the different methodologies. But you know, in one kind of unifying platform and over time is nice to
Paul Blunden: Yeah, that that sounds very sort of diary study, like
Brian Loeb: in terms of a method?
Paul Blunden: Yeah.
Brian Loeb: yeah, and not too long, because then it comes over to me, but like 2 2 week diary studies, and lodge it to to it all or not. But that’s not really a luxury. But you know many logic, you know. Let’s say.
Paul Blunden: yeah, yeah, cool. And then the kind of sectors you’ve worked, and you’ve mentioned a few and obviously consumers as a group of participants is being important. But so what sort of sectors have you worked in?
Brian Loeb: Well, Obviously my roots are in consumer, e-commerce and in tech. and then I’ve also done quite a bit of financial services and quite a bit of FM. Cg: actually. and I do a lot of I actually do a lot of research every year into drinks markets where I’m. Re researching, and i’m doing interviews with professionals and in different drink manufacturers. And then it involves a lot of consumer research as well. and and then I I don’t get them as much as I used to. But there I do get some kind of Fmc. G types of studies once in a while.
Most recently I did one just recently on vapors. So it’s been a long, long time since I’d actually work for a Tobacco Company. This happened to be a to tobacco company with.
That was very interesting. Yeah.
Paul Blunden: cool. And the one of the things I’ve been asking people because we’re
You know UX24/7. Well, and we’re we’re very strongly driven toward helping our customers be more customer Century and I’m really interested to understand our researchers view on the brands they work with, how customer centric they are, and and in particular how that is different between markets. So from your perspective, obviously in Spain, or even the Uk. And Us.
Can you to speak to how mature those markets are and the brands within them that you work with.
Brian Loeb: Yeah, I that I struggled with this question about customers centricity that.
to be honest, it was yeah, it’s really It’s really it’s really a feedback loop. I mean brands and companies are focusing on consumers, and that’s been a trend that’s increased. Certainly, since the nineties, when it was kind of like. you know, you launch your technology, especially in technology. You launch your technology, and then, you know, consumers learn how to use it.
And then, you know you you over a couple of years. You kind of get some customer feedback, and then you do some tweaks in a when you do an update after about 2 years. But things have definitely, though that cycle is shortened, and there new product development is much more customer focused. and but at the same time there’s you know the tech companies. They have their systems, and then Fmcg companies. They have their providers. They have their factories, and they can only change things at a at a certain rate. You can’t change a whole production line, because consumer research shows that they want it curved a little more. You can change it, but you can’t change it really quickly. It is very expensive to change. So it’s hard to say. I’m not. I want to say there, they’re about 50% there. But then you, it’s hard to go really much more beyond that 50%, because there’s all the restrictions and systems and factories, and just you know capacity and resources, so you can’t give this consumer everything they want all the time at at the right price.
Paul Blunden: Well, that’s a despite this, the fact, you said you struggle. That’s a really interesting answer, actually, and a really a fascinating perspective actually on how you talked about the market changing over time, because we still see, I think, too much. Companies relying on sort of launch something and test it, live rather than sort of involve their customers in the process.
Brian Loeb: and I think you’re 50. 50 might even be the ambitious. But anyway, let’s move on it’s certainly it’s certainly improved over the last couple of decades.
Paul Blunden: Well, that’s true. Yeah, that is, that is true, which is is good. We’re heading in the right direction. And what do you think is the biggest challenge brands and product directors face when when undertaking a a sort of research study.
Brian Loeb: Yeah. Okay. Well, i’m going to concentrate on Ux kind of more specifically, because it does have some specific kind of challenges, and it’s definitely defining the objectives and the scope. So really, what you want to look at.
So back back in the email@example.com. We were very much. We were doing a lot of usability like you know. How Where do we need to put this button. And you know, how does this menu structure work? Is it intuitive? And so things like that? We wrote through zeroing in on very key aspects of interacting within interface right?
And and then, you know, obviously there. Then there’s all sorts of filter tools and things, how how things appear visually, and things like that on that you can focus on. But over the years it’s become much more of a ux, which is, you know, user experience and the experience and the whole journey, and how that works, and that involves a lot more. It involves the interface. But then it also the service, the content, the products that you have on a website or app, or even a software. And then you can even take him. Consideration like things like pricing and other kind of unmet needs, and so it becomes much more of a holistic kind of look.
But so many times you really need to find what you want to look at, and are you are you? Do you want to look at a certain aspect? And then, if so, you have to design your project so that you 0 in on that aspect. and you filter out kind of the other stuff in the journey. because otherwise you won’t, get a clear read. But, on the other hand, maybe you do want to kind of include more aspects of the journey and get more of a holistic look. It’s always kind of a difficult to get that balance right, and you really have to understand what your objectives are and what you wanna what you want to. Clearly not. And then government.
Paul Blunden: so that the challenge that I’m taking from that is really about being clear about the objectives of the research, and then designing the research to meet those objectives.
Brian Loeb: Yeah. Okay. If you if you say we want to do the whole experience that’s great. you’ll get good feedback on the whole experience. But you won’t know if your menu is right. has the right structure to it.
Paul Blunden: Thank you that’s really really interesting. And could you speak about flagship projects you’ve delivered. Be really interested to hear about that Sounds like You’ve got such a depth of experience, I guess such a long period of time.
Brian Loeb: Yeah, sure it Yeah, it was kind of tough I kind of. I had to kind of go through. But I think one thing does stand out as being fairly interesting, really interesting and really innovative. And it kind of it was project that went on for a few years. So basically from 2,007 to 2,011 approximately. I had a strategic alliance with an Italian neuroscientist, and we so the and we had a key customer, which was Mccann Erickson, Universal Mccann, the AD agency and movie agencies. and who often to be the biggest one in Spain at least. And
And so we did a series of neuro bio feedback analyses on different kinds of mostly a lot of ads that obviously television ads. But then also a lot of kind of digital stimuli, social media things like that. And so it it had. We had one way that was actually focused on the digital experiences. And yeah, and so that that said directly into kind of the insights and and inspiration, I guess, for the creatives. So they they really were able to see. Okay, what ads work, what content works, and also what kind of a formula. You know you did it. It involved a lot of obviously a lot of qu with neural biological feedback. But then we also had a lot of quality in there. We did a free and post interviews and things.
So yeah, it was just a lot of different ways of getting feedback and a lot of different ways of framing that so it could be used in the creation of better that are advertising especially, but also digital experiences as well, and and they have some very large customers, such as Repsol or Coca Cola. And so you really saw kind of the impact actually on the television at night in the different AD campaigns that were being aired in that in that timeframe in Spain
Paul Blunden: that that’s really interesting, and it feels like at that time there was a lot going on. We in that area of neuroscience. I was with an agency myself, and we were using an encephalography to look at brainwaves as people change pages on websites to see what the emotional impact was. And it sounds your that project you’re talking about is way bigger than what we were doing, but it similar to the space, and i’m kind of surprised. It’s not become more mainstream, more broadly over time, because that was quite a long time ago.
Brian Loeb: Yeah, I think there’s there’s a lot of agencies that are very specialized in it, and it’s it’s still out there. It didn’t It’s far from mainstream. Yeah. it’s Also it’s it’s got it’s difficulties and challenges the translating brainwaves into insights is very difficult.
You get a you get a string of even you know of, You know, electrical outputs on in in solar. And so, you know you know It’s not. It’s not straightforward in the analysis. And of all the the methodologies I’ve worked with. There’s always the output which is hard to interpret, but that is the most difficult to interpret of all
Paul Blunden: good. Well, look, i’d like to move the conversation on a bit, and because i’m eager to ask this next question, because a lot of researchers I ask about their own market only know their own market, and they can’t compare with others. But you you obviously live and work in Spain. But you’ve You’ve worked in other markets as well. So i’m really interested in your your answer about what our behaviors are unique to the market. You know. You need, maybe, to Spain that you see in those users or consumers that you don’t see in other markets around the world.
Brian Loeb: Yeah. So yeah, I struggled with this one, too. But one thing that’s particular about the the Spanish market is that it compared to other countries, especially ecommerce is a slow to take off. There’s lower levels, lower growth. more resistance. and it has to do with a lot of different factors, but they One of the key ones is that in Spain there Spain has mostly avoided urban spr, and so you have cities that are walkable. and you have quite literally shops on every corner. And yeah, but everything. Yeah. And you also have a
Do you have a society that well just kind of walking in socializing and mixing together. So so yeah, whenever a company comes in with in the Spain, they have to really think about their distribution and strategy. and they can’t they shouldn’t overestimate how quickly the e-commerce will take off so if a in France and Britain. Yeah, they achieve this level of sales in in the first year.
Well, they should at least have that for Spain, and they should have to think about how they’re going to get it distributed on. You know those shop center, you know, on on just about every street. There’s all sorts of different So the the e-commerce is a little less important, and you want to make sure you get your neighborhood proximity commerce down.
Paul Blunden: that’s really interesting. particularly about sort of the Geo geographic and cultural impact on that. On the way it almost rolls out a specimen.
Brian Loeb: There’s also a little bit of more reticence to putting credit cards online and things like that, and not being trusting that it will be delivered. But I don’t think that’s the major factor. I think the May. The most important factor is that you can buy things. There’s so many shops ours all around, and and people like to go out and walk and shop, and they’re very nice Breton are very nice cities to to walk around. That’s everybody’s notices that. And so I think that’s the most important factor, because we do see that things that are hard to find, which you can’t get in any specific shop, especially collectibles and things like that.
There is a very healthy, and they do well on with the e-commerce models. so they are willing to buy online. It’s just for other things that you can find fairly easily They don’t, mind like you know one delicious
Paul Blunden: interesting. And my final couple of questions, Brian.
What’s currently inspiring you or inspires You and I know you’ve got a talk coming up. So it might be all the planning for that. But what? What’s going through you at the moment.
Brian Loeb: Yeah, no, I have to say that Well, Certainly that is youth. Culture is inspiring. That’s what my talk is about. My No agency back in in span, in the early 2,000 S. Was actually focused on youth culture. So the first several years it was almost the exclusive focus of doing call and plants. Youth, culture, my own studies. And so that’s a. And so this talk in this little study that we did at the end of last year, this kind of recovering some of that inspiration.
But I also have to say that generating AI and its applications to market research or an interesting. So we we’re all hearing about all this chat, gpt, and it’s become a a hot topic. and yeah, I’ve always been interested in kind of the intersection of qual and quant and to how you can actually build. You know, a quant allows you to build a a technologies that you know can automatically respond to different. both quantitative and qualitative inputs. So it’s
It’s something I’ve always been interested in. It’s good to see it’s coming to the 4. I don’t tend to share. The kind of the robots are going to take over fear mentality. So it certainly is a fairly time to when it’s You’re constantly. It’s. It’s impact. But I think it’s. It’s something to embrace and not we’re in the end. We’re actually doing it. We’re in control of what’s gonna happen with it. So we have to be responsible for that power that we have.
Paul Blunden: Well, let’s hope so. And finally, what’s your biggest learning since you became a researcher?
Brian Loeb: Yeah, I struggle with this one, too. But i’m going to go back to the the neural biological feedback study the that we did, and what I was really interesting I mean, it’s.
We all know that everybody is their own individual right, but we also tend to the fall into specific behavioral patterns, right, and that that we can understand and analyze. And you know No, we can’t say that. You know this one person is going to react in this way, because but we can say on an aggregate population, we will tend to show these different patterns and things.
And so so one of the things we learned there is that very generally you can kind of provide the population into people who are naturally nervous and high energy right? And so, if they react positively to a stimuli, they will actually calm down and relax. And and then there’s another part of the population which tends to be kind of naturally relaxed and low-key and when they react positively to a stimulus. they will naturally get excited. and that’s their positive response. And so you have kind of these opposite responses, and so it’s hard to really analyze things in an aggregate. Yeah, I think you have to kind of you do have to do segmentations, and from there you can start to understand how people react to differently to the same stimuli. but the fact that they they react differently could be positive for one, and could be negative for another.
But you don’t want to put out a stimuli and say, okay, if they react like this, then it’s good. That’s what we want. Let’s rate that as positive. We have to understand what or different people are coming from, and then kind of know how to evaluate their reactions, based on their understanding of the kind of their natural segmentation patterns.
Paul Blunden: That’s a really, really interesting. Yeah, it says everything really about the the need for in-depth research, you know, rather than just sort of surface level. Yeah, that’s just make a decision on that. You can see why my products fail and the others succeed.
Brian Loeb: Yeah, you don’t want to just say, well. let’s. If 60% have. The reaction that we have decided is favor of all, then let’s launch it, and that’s not. You want to kind of dig deep and understand the underlying motivations and and behavior patterns that
Paul Blunden: Well, Brian, thank you so much for sparing the time to speak to me. It’s been really really interesting. I’m sure. Whoever is, sees you at the conference a couple of weeks time. It’s in Amsterdam Isn’t it.
Brian Loeb: Yeah. It’s about 3 weeks, 3 weeks time, and i’m sure they’ll be fascinated to where you’ve got to say as I have been today, so thank you so much for joining me, and best of luck with your talk.
Brian Loeb: Okay Well, thank you, Paul. and enjoy these this series of interviews. I think it’s a good initiative.
Paul Blunden: Thank you.
Well, I hope you enjoyed listening to Brian and his experience dating all the way back to the late nineties rather than myself. I was thinking a much, a very interesting perspective, because digital still relatively new.
And of course, Brian has such a wide range of experience, not just in digital research, but with neuroscience and advertising and products, and all sorts of things so really interesting. Interview.
My name is Paul Blunden. I’m. Founder of UX24/7. If you want to find out more about what we do. Visit our website. That’s www.ux247.com or find me on linkedin and message me there, and of course, better still, subscribe to this channel. There’ll be another interview coming along shortly.
Thanks very much for watching.