Patty Chung, Viacom: Bringing the Audience to Life

Patty Chung is the Director of Trends and Insights at Viacom – with a dual role on the Global Consumer Insights team and the Marketing Strategy team. Her role is to elevate and market the insights and thought leadership from Viacom. Prior to this role, she worked on the Culture and Creative Insights team (fka Scratch), a full-service integrated marketing and creative content team. In her past life, she worked in different creative and digital roles – non-profit art, production, community management, and editorial for Creative Time, VICE, and MTV. She has a Bachelor of Science in Media, Culture, and Communications from NYU.

The most interesting people she’s casually seen while working at Viacom/Times Square – Paul McCartney, Justin Bieber, Snooki, and Larry David.

Building a Foundation- Hard Work

To Patty Chung, building a foundation is the most important place to start when building an insight. And while that seems intuitive, she believes it helps to uncover insights you never would have thought of otherwise. “This foundation I’m referring to is research. The consumers’ motivations and behaviors are the building blocks.” The “why behind the what” method is popular among insight professionals. Patty describes evaluating the why as being the ticket to “providing more depth and breadth in terms of what you know about your audience.”

What she describes here is reminiscent of Malcolm Gladwell’s iconic 10,000 hours theory. If you’re unfamiliar, Gladwell found that it generally took someone 10,000 hours of practice or hard work to become successful in their desired field. Patty suggests that the research one must conduct before uncovering insight is that essential hard work. “After you’ve covered your bases with foundational work, there’s always more to do to hone in on unique insight.”

“Information is Useless Without Understanding Why”

The why. That’s the next step. “You can say people are feeling overwhelmed by technology. Sure, that’s the case, but that’s useless information without understanding why.”

“A piece of research I worked on a while back was about how attention today is very different than in generations past. Our hypothesis was that people were feeling overwhelmed by technology. That was the what. And it’s generally true, that so many things are vying for our attention in the digital space that we can’t focus on anything else. But what we actually found was that despite all of that, people are able to navigate all of that noise and feel like they’re in control. People are using pop up blockers, digital detoxing and looking to influencers/curators to manage feeling overwhelmed. Learning what people were feeling, and why they were able to manage it, added a full picture to what was going on.”

Facilitate Unique Insight Experiences

Creating the insight is an appendage of understanding the consumers’ motivations. Patty’s team has had success in finding insights by facilitating unique experiences, including a data visualization microsite where they posted their research and studied the analytics of the site to gauge their audience’s interest, and a walk-through art installation, in which they observed the participants reactions to certain elements. “There are times I see insights that cover the same topics and the same groups of people over and over again. For me, I’m always looking for something that challenges the notion of what we think we know, and getting insight in a way that gives us a fresh perspective.”

Personifying the Audience: Qualitative Videos

Once the team puts in their 10,000 hours, so to speak, and insights begin to surface, it’s time to do what most insight professionals say is the most difficult part: the pitch. I wanted to know how Patty gets into the minds of the people who can make brand decisions.

“The primary role we serve is to bring the audience to life. When we’re telling the story about our audience, we can’t be the only voice in the room.” Her point here is that it’s one thing to share statistical analyses, but getting creative in your presentations can make all the difference. “I like to utilize qualitative videos where you actually see and hear your audience speaking. It’s much more powerful than us telling our partners what people think; it gives them the opportunity to hear directly from the voice of the consumer.”

“Then I like to supplement that with real-life manifestations. Aside from what consumers are saying, it’s important to highlight examples in real life of these phenomena occurring in the world. Part of the storytelling element is creating a connection.”

Keys to Success

Presenting ideas, no matter how cleverly one does it, can be overwhelming. “I would say you know you’re doing a good job when people are actually paying attention to what you have to say and are hungry for more. They trust you and you become the expert who can help them make the right decisions.”

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