Bold, Brave and Behavioral Science Champion: the Human Face behind Brand Genetics North America
A good apple lands back in The Big Apple, as we open our doors to a new era and a permanent home in North America. The office will be led by Liz Thompson – Neuroscience graduate from Duke University, human behavior fanatic and now (once again) a Brooklyn resident.
To mark the grand opening of Brand Genetics’ New York office, we sat down with Liz to lift the lid on what makes her tick…
So how was it that you started in the world of Brand Strategy?
My biggest passion has always been understanding why we (as humans) do what we do, and why we DON’T do what we don’t do. So Brand Strategy seemed like an exciting way to apply my skills in research and analysis, as well as my fascination with people and behavior, but in a totally new and more relatable way. It also gave me a way to tap into my creative side again – as a kid, I was constantly creating: drawing, sculpting, writing, painting, playing music.
What initially got you excited about the world of Insight and Innovation?
After about 5 years in Brand Strategy, I realized I was missing that real research side of things, and I wanted to do more innovation as well. It seemed like an even bigger opportunity to apply my love and passion for understanding people and behavior – things that I could more easily see, experience and experiment with first-hand, compared with academic research or working in traditional brand strategy and design.
I also really enjoy solving problems and learning more about the world and environment around me – the bigger the question or problem to tackle, the more motivating for me – and the world of insight and innovation seemed to have more complex, ‘meatier’ challenges to solve, while still supporting brands, which I love.
But maybe most importantly, I wanted to live in London (clearly I’ve been driven by geography over anything else!) So, I left my previous job (I had worked at both Dragon Rouge and Bluemarlin in New York), moved to London and took a course in innovation at the London School of Economics (LSE). I then serendipitously came across Brand Genetics – and the rest is history!
What attracted you to Brand Genetics in particular?
Hands down: the people and the brainpower! I love that BG is as fascinated by understanding people, as I am. Our ‘raison d’etre’ is about solving brand challenges by thinking human-first, and every day we are taking tangible steps to better incorporate learnings from Psychology and Behavioral Science into what we do, which I find really motivating.
On top of that, there was an immediate warmth and ‘human-ness’ to everyone I met. I felt comfortable and welcomed, and honestly I was really impressed by the calibre of thinking and provocation.
It’s certainly what’s kept me here as well – I’ve never met such a genuine, lovely and brilliant group of people. I find myself constantly learning from everyone around me, regardless of level or years of experience – it’s just an inspiring and fun group to be around!
What would you like to achieve during your time in NY?
I’d love to continue our push to challenge ourselves, and the industry, to be better. The US market, like the rest of the world, is due for a shake-up.
While there is a great – and growing – number of players here, traditional focus groups, poor analysis and lack of diversity can still dominate. I think there’s a huge opportunity to disrupt by leveraging the power of behavioral science, and I believe we can be the company to do that. So many companies talk about ‘human’ and ‘consumer centricity’ and ‘empathy’ – which is admittedly a critical first step – but in my experience, few are actually delivering on it. We’re in a unique and exciting position to help drive meaningful change in the world of insight and innovation – delivering better for brands, better for consumers and ultimately better for people (human-first after all!)
What’s your vision for BG in 5 years’ time?
I would love to see BG continuing to evolve from being our clients’ ‘secret weapon’ to having a more dominant presence in the industry. We’re getting there, very much thanks to our fantastic (and expanding) client partnerships, evidence-based methodologies and thought leadership.
One final question… What one trend do you think is most exciting in the world of marketing for 2022?
Selfishly (to my point above) I love it that clients are really starting to embrace Psychology and Behavioral Science – and see its value in helping us better understand consumer perceptions and behavior. Which is basically thinking of people more holistically and fundamentally, rather than narrowly and superficially. The industry is also getting more behavior and decision led in its methodologies (for instance, leveraging digital experimentation), which I think is so exciting and so critical to shaping strong brand and innovation strategies.