The CMO Show:
From information to wisdom: The...

There are 3.5 billion searches on Google every day. If you’re in the business of providing information, how do you compete? The answer according to CHOICE’s Head of New Things Viveka Weiley and Design Ethnographer Kalpana Vignehsa is to disrupt yourself.

Subscribe to The CMO Show on Apple Podcasts.

Buying a major appliance like a fridge or washing machine has never been easier. Just pop online and before you know it, your purchase on its way to your house.

But how do you know you’ve got the best deal? You could spend hours online trawling through pages and pages of reviews, comments, and competitors to find the most cost and energy efficient appliance.

Or, you could go to CHOICE. The publication has been a staple in Australian homes for more than 50 years.

For Viveka Weiley and Kalpana Vignehsa, the secret to CHOICE’s success in staying relevant in the internet age is at the heart of the organisation’s structure.

CHOICE began as an independent and member-funded consumer advocacy group, established to recognise the imbalance in information between sellers and buyers. But how do you compete with a platform like the internet, when your product is information? How do you essentially disrupt yourself?

The answer was to bring transformative thinking into the organisation with the establishment of a department of New Things.

“The internet’s coming to another stage where information is being commoditised,” Viveka says.

“There’s so much information now that people need it narrowed down. How do you do that?  How do you go from information to wisdom?” Kalpana asks.

For CHOICE the solution is to move up the stack. “It’s not like people are running out of problems. It’s not like everything is suddenly fixed,” she says.

“The problem of finding out basic product information is solved. You can Google it. The problem of understanding that information is getting harder.”

Tune in and join hosts Nicole Manktelow and Mark Jones in this deep-dive episode of The CMO Show as they talk auto-disruption, brand relevancy, legacy, transparency, and chicken apps.



Hosts: Mark Jones (MJ)

Nicole Mankletow (NM)

Guests: Viveka Weiley (VW)

Kalpana Vignehsa (KV)


MJ:   It’s the CMO Show and I’m your host, Mark Jones.

NM: I’m Nicole Mankletow.

MJ:   Thank you very much for joining us.

NM: My pleasure.

MJ:   No.  Thank you…

NM: You.

MJ:   …Nicole.  Fantastic episode today.  We are talking about disrupting yourself.

NM: I feel like it’s a little bit naughty.

MJ:   It is a bit naughty. It’s well-worn ground in the sense of companies trying to disrupt other companies but what happens when you want to actually build a team, a unit, within your organisation whose sole purpose is to completely rethink the way you do everything?

NM: Yes. I guess the idea being that most disruptors are finding better ways of doing things and they’re finding market share and taking it away from the incumbents.

MJ:   Yes.

MJ:   What’s really interesting about this subject to the marketing and communications community is that we have to go back to first principles.  What does the organisation stand for?  What’s its mission and what’s its purpose and how well are we communicating that?  Because any new activities need to align with that core stated purpose.

NM: Or the story….

MJ:   Or the story.

NM: …I hear you say.

MJ:   There you go.  Because we do love storytelling.  So with all of that as a setup our guests today come from CHOICE and we have Viveka Weiley and Kalpana Vignehsa and their titles are Head of new things so Viveka is the head of new things.

NM: Best title ever.

MJ:   That’s exactly right.

NM: He’s got a business card.  We can prove it.

MJ:   Head of new things.  Viveka.  Kalpana is the design ethnographer.

NM: It’s a fabulous title.

MJ:   Right.  Which our producer tells me that an ethnographer used to be a bit of a pejorative term in certain circles but in this context it’s fascinating because we’re thinking about the study of people as it relates to design.  If you think about that we have the UX design thinking universe, trying to understand exactly how can I walk in my customer’s shoes?  So how can I take all of that learning and build it into my strategy

NM: A very vigorous way of getting that learning.

MJ:   Yes.

NM: A very scientific, tried and true method of collecting all of that together.

NM: Put your brain in.

MJ:   Let’s have a listen.

MJ:   Thank you for joining us on the CMO Show.  I’m Mark Jones.

NM:  I’m Nicole Mankletow.  We are your co-hosts.

MJ:   We are indeed and we have two very special guests with us in the new studio here at Filtered Media.

MJ:   Viveka Weiley and Kalpana Vignehsa.

MJ:   Who are both joining us from CHOICE which is a publication I must say and a media property – perhaps that’s more inclusive of where you’re at these days – that I grew up with it really.  So it’s one of those iconic sort of magazine titles that one grows up with if you’re my age anyway.  Is that how you’d describe it?

VW: No.  Yes and no.

MJ:   I should say Viveka you’re head of new things which means that’s why you’re going to correct me. Kalpana is a design ethnographer which I don’t even know what that is so you’ll be able to tell us all about that in a minute too right?

KV:  Sure.

MJ:  Okay.  So let’s start with firstly what is CHOICE then?

VW: Well CHOICE was founded in 1959 to fight for fair, just and safe markets for Australian consumers. So that’s kind of the big story and there’s a charter that describes what that is and that’s kind of our purpose and the purpose drives the values and the values drive the mission and it all actually kind of works.

NM: So what we’ve grown up with is seeing the publication that’s really just an extension of an advocacy organisation.

KV:   Yes.

VW: It’s the product.

KV:   Yes.  It’s been the product for a very long time, for numerous decades and maybe is a product that most people know.

VW: Yes.

MJ:  Can you just explain what’s the philosophy, the ethos, the underlying belief that’s behind that?

VW: Behind those values?  Okay.  So we can go right back to the charter and it says recognising the imbalance in information between sellers and buyers. CHOICE is instituted in order to fight for these things. So it’s based in kind of the rise of early consumerism in that moment where people could see that this was the way we were going to live now in kind of the modern age.  It was necessary to be organised in a way. It was a time – the consumer law didn’t exist. The Trade Practices Act didn’t exist. If you bought a dishwasher it was going to cost you a year’s savings and it might burn your house down and you’d have no recourse. That was the world that CHOICE was born into by our kind of visionary founder Ruby Hutchison and the kind of incredible team of people that she built around herself. So she was the first Western Australian MLC who was a woman and the only one during her tenure.  A single mother who then went on to have an incredible career…

KV:   She did.

VW: …as well.  I mean a single mother’s an incredible career as well.

KV:   And…

NM: So two incredible careers.

VW: At least two actually.

KV:   At least two.

VW: I mean she founded a tenants’ organisation, a disability rights organisation.

KV:   Throughout her time at CHOICE as well she used to self-identify as a home-maker.

VW: Yes, housewife was how she put it.

KV:   She was running the show so there you go.

MJ:   Can I ask what was it about the early origin story of CHOICE that inspired you?

KV:   It’s a flat out inspiring story because it’s based on an imbalance of power.  So you’ve got a time when corporations are becoming bigger and consumer voice smaller and consumers not really being able to tell corporations what’s wrong, what’s lacking et cetera.  Then you’ve got this group of people who essentially started off like a co-op, a very flat structure getting together to fight for fair, just and safe markets. That is something that surprisingly resonates extremely well even today. So CHOICE is now a 136 strong organisation and if you stop any person in the organisation and you ask them what the mission was they would be able to rattle it off to you which is pretty stunning I think.

MJ:   Yes.  How has the business model behind CHOICE changed over the years or has it?

VW: So CHOICE had a very successful digital transformation 20 years ago which is lucky.  There are a lot of organisations doing that today and we had some really good people who are – a lot of them are still with the organisation who shepherded that shift.  So if you look at the curve of market share of the core original product, the magazine, it’s a Bell curve that is tailing off now.  But at the birth of the web CHOICE built the digital version of that product which has taken that up really well. Because CHOICE has never taken advertising we were not hit by the fall of the advertising model. So there’s a bit of luck in there as well. But that subscription model has continued to work so we have a great sustaining innovation and a series of sustaining innovations that have kept that core product going. But there is a more underlying issue with the model of selling information in general now so the rise of the internet. The internet’s coming to another stage where information’s being commoditised and even though CHOICE has some unique information which keeps it possible to keep doing it.

KV:   Yes.

KV:   A big question is are you willing to pay for content?

MJ:   Right.  This is the existential question that all the publishers around the world face right?

VW: Mm.

KV:   Yes.

NM: Yes.  When someone’s got an answer they might need to write to Rupert.

MJ:   I think for me the answer is, well how important is the question?

MJ:   So let’s go from that beginning to the now and I need to ask you head of new things wonderfully creative and also very expansive.

VW: Yes.

MJ:   Can you maybe nail it down to something for us?

VW: Well my job description pretty much says everything that’s not the core business model. It actually specifically says that. I’m not allowed to touch that.  Leave it alone.  Any time I go near the core business model I get no you’re supposed to be doing all – there is everything else.  There is everything else we could possibly be doing and so we have this very exploratory unit.  I mean kind of linking back CHOICE has the benefit that we do have an underlying mission that isn’t – the publishing is an important strength of what we do.  Testing is an important strength of what we do.  Campaigning.  We have all of these various strengths but we’re not just any of them.

KV:   Yes.

VW: We’re not just a publisher.  We’re an organisation that fights by any means necessary.  So we can pick up any tools.  We can pick up the emerging tools of apps and services, particularly services.

KV:   Yes.

KV:   Tools are not injected into the mission.  It’s not about publishing for fair, just and safe markets.  It’s just about creating fair, just and safe markets and we’re free to do that any way we see as best.

VW: Yes.  So the publishing arm is going strong and then the new things unit is here to look for every other business model that is out there.  So it’s lovely to have that brief. It’s a bit like being a start-up incubator.

MJ:   Right.

NM: I want to talk to you about one of those tools that you used, augmented reality and the chicken app, CluckAR, for finding out whether the eggs you buy at the supermarket are actually free range or what that really means in a way that’s meaningful.  

VW: Yes.  So that idea pretty much got me the job I suppose.

NM: Really?

VW: Yes.  I can tell the story. I think there’s an anecdote in that one.

NM: All right.  Go for it.

MJ:   What, so you just rocked up with an idea and boom you got a job?

VW: Close to it.

MJ:   I hope I didn’t just jump straight to the punchline.  So how did it go?

VW: So I mean I had a lot of conversations with our CEO before I came on board at CHOICE. I’m unreasonably picky about the opportunities I take.  I think I’m a bit lazy.  I want the ones that are going to work, so I was cheating.  I often try and cheat.  I have all these techniques for cheating like hiring crazy, incredibly good people is really cheating, but why not do that?  The other thing that I do is I look for an organisation that’s ready to do amazing things. So I was looking around. I’d recently left the ABC.  was working at kind of a creativity hub at UTS doing some really interesting things there. It was an incredible group of people.  I could see that CHOICE was in a position to do amazing things and they were looking to start a new things unit, kind of what you’d normally call an innovation group, that kind of thing.  But a lot of these groups are terrible.  You can do innovation theatre and it’s great. It makes great PR. It makes a good press release.  It doesn’t really transform the business. If the business doesn’t really want to be transformed you can fake it for a while to keep the activist shareholders happy while the core shareholders who don’t really want you to change don’t have to face it.

NM: A couple of good photos for LinkedIn and a couple of half day workshops and steady as she goes.

VW: Yes.

MJ:   Or it can be a good way to identify start-ups that you want to just acquire…

VW: Yes.

MJ:   …just bring the talents in-house right?

VW: Yes.

VW: it’s a bit cold hearted but actually a lot of organisations it’s smart to try and stifle internal innovation. They need their internal people focused on the core business and they’ve gone for an outside model of innovation. Now CHOICE was going for an inside/outside model so they wanted to bring kind of transformative thinking inside the organisation and so we had an opportunity there and an incredible board, an incredible CEO, incredible – I go on about it but it’s turned out to be all the things I hoped it would be.

VW: So one of the conversations that we had when I was talking to Alan, our CEO, was that CHOICE had gathered all this amazing information about the stocking density of free range egg farms.

VW: We’d published it in a report.  We’d put up a webpage about it and very dedicated people were printing it out, laminating it and taking it to the supermarket, using it to help them with their purchasing decisions and…

VW: …that very small group of people were very satisfied with this piece of information.

VW: But it wasn’t getting out there.

MJ:   It sounds pretty analogue.

VW: Yes.  It’s pretty analogue but it was on the web in a mobile friendly format but even so what is the next step?

VW: So my background is creativity and technology and the answer is obviously augmented reality immediately. So I went back from that meeting with Alan’s words in my ears thinking what would be a better way to attack this problem and I mocked up in Photoshop the app that we shipped 10 weeks after I joined the company.

MJ:   Fantastic.

MJ:   So just very briefly what’s the scenario?  I’ve got an app on my phone presumably?

VW: Yes.

MJ:   I walk up and I scan a box of eggs and it tells me whether they’re good or bad?  Is that really it?

VW: Pretty much, yes.

KV:   Pretty much.

VW: You point your camera at the top of the egg carton and you get a lovely 3D animated visualisation of how densely packed those chooks really are.

MJ:   Got it.

NM: Now I’ve actually done this and there are chickens the little animations and they’re kind of moving around stuff so it’s quite lively.  It is quite fun.  I’ve achieved it with children in tow looking at it so…

MJ:   That’s…

NM: …it kind of works.

MJ:   …the big question right?  Yes.  I think this is where speed matters right?  So as long as it can deliver you an answer instantly…

VW: Yes.  We spent a lot of time on the user interaction model and this is the way we cheated.  I hired a really, really good mobile developer.  It was my first hire.  Warren Armstrong, who I think when he worked at the ABC he built the number one android news apps on the weekends.

MJ:   As you do.

VW: As you do and then brought it in and said “here it is, we should ship this.” So you work with incredibly good talent and you work iteratively. This is iterative design.  So I’m working on the design.  She’s working on the code.  Together we just kept testing it and testing it and testing it and looping through. There was no upfront spec.  You just design it and test it until you can point your phone at it and get the answer in less than a second.

MJ:   Got it.  I’m really keen to know Kalpana what’s your role in that because I’m looking at again at this design ethnographer right?  Do you want to sort of connect some dots for us?

KV:   Sure.  So I was I think the second person…

VW: Yes.

KV:   …to come on board on the team and an ethnographer is essentially a people watcher.

MJ:   Wow.  You get paid to do the fun stuff.

KV:   Yes.  Yes, I do.  So I had spent the previous seven years as an academic and doing my own research basically sort of it’s mainly observational research. It’s a little bit like being an embedded journalist going in and sitting in organisations or whatever culture that you’re observing.  I saw this job ad for a design ethnographer and I’m like I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone outside of the academy even knows what an ethnographer is and so I had to apply.

KV:   So my job really in the team is – it’s interesting because I also pitched an idea in my job interview. It was really to introduce and make sure the team is thinking about the burning problems for consumers.  I’m a trained ethnographer and so I’ve been people watching for a very, very long time and watching society. But it might be saying to people “we really need to focus on housing because this is an issue whose time has come.  There are going to be other players disrupting the market.” That might be one thing. Or it might be something else that comes up and the team says “we’d really like to know more about what’s happening in aged care because the elderly have become consumers of a system that is broken, go out and find out what’s broken, how badly broken it is” et cetera. So my job is very broad. I personally think it’s the funnest job on the team.

VW: Yes.  We all think that about our own jobs.

KV:   The word design there is that it sort of combines the research, doing research, collecting people’s stories. I spend a lot of time in the field listening to what exactly is going on. A lot of it – all of it actually is recorded. It comes back, it’s transcribed and I’m constantly feeding into the team discussions and to ideation et cetera.  But also very much a part of helping us design what we’re going to do with it.  So this is where I guess it’s nice and different because I’m not just doing the research.  I’m also very much involved in implementation and design and solution.

MJ:   I guess if I was to try and find some parallel tracks in the broader marketing universe you might say it’s part of the UX world or maybe design thinking, that sort of approach which says we seek to put ourselves in the mind and the experience and the lived reality of the other.  Is that…

KV:   Yes.

MJ:   …a good way of understanding it?

KV:   It is.  It’s a great way of understanding it.  I used to teach design thinking at UTS before this job.

KV:   UX is a big part of it. We have a great UX person on our team as well. We work really closely together. But yes, it is about sort of keeping an eye and fingers on the pulse of what’s happening, what’s important for consumers et cetera.

NM: You mentioned disruption. How do you see disruption coming?  Is this part of the fine, possibly dark, art of ethnography?

KV:   I think it is – it’s not so much a dark art of ethnography because ethnography is really just about the observation, the deep listening, focusing on whatever it is that you’re studying.  Maybe it’s just the dark art of what I do, what I like to do.

NM: Is it the perception?

KV:   Yes.

NM: It’s being able to see what’s…

KV:   It’s about putting…

NM: Anticipating.

KV:   Yes.  You put all that information together and you have some kind of sense and in that way it’s very much an art and not a science.

NM: So you bring that to the meetings at CHOICE and say…

KV:   Yes.

NM: …let’s focus here.

KV:   Yes and I spend a lot of time harassing Viv.

VW: It really – yes it really works because one of the kind of the underlying forces that drives disruption is that there are new ways to do old jobs.  So Kalpana brings to us an understanding of what jobs people are trying to get done and the new ways that they’re doing it and the ways they’re struggling to do those jobs.  So you can look beyond existing solutions because all the existing solutions are temporary at the moment particularly.

NM: A lot of people look for better ways of doing the same thing or efficiencies or doing it faster or cheaper, all of that sort of thing.  You’re looking at not just the world that consumers are interacting with but you’re also looking at yourselves and completely torpedoing things.

VW: Every value chain is being challenged at the moment.  The points of integration are shifting in every single one of them.

KV:   It’s a little bit like if you observe the way a person goes from the train station to their house there’s a road and they might walk down the road but often they’re taking this pathway that’s through some grass and it’s been well trodden. It’s my job to see that there’s a whole bunch of people doing that. There’s something in that.

KV:   Why is it that we’ve built a road that’s not the shortest possible route?

MJ:   Right.

NM: I think you just summed up software development didn’t you?

KV:   For that you need to be watching.

NM: I agree.

MJ:   I think one of the challenges here is it’s one thing to disrupt other companies so as an organisation you’re trying to disrupt the status quo.  Maybe you’re a start-up and you’re trying to – it’s that sort of typical dynamic. You’re disrupting your own organisation as Nicole was saying. What’s the hardest thing about that?

VW: It’s actually interesting.  I mean we’re being disrupted in the very, very classic kind of Clay Christensen sense of the word.  It’s low end disruption that there are free worse alternatives coming up behind us doing the job well enough for a lot of people, the job that we’ve traditionally done. What we do to deal with that is move up the stack. So we’re thinking okay if information is being commoditised where – it’s not like people are running out of problems. It’s not like everything is suddenly fixed.  The problem of finding out basic product information is solved. You can Google it. The problem of understanding that information is getting harder. So we can move up the stack. We can move to delivering analysis. We can move to delivering services that help you enact your decisions.

MJ:   Is that another way of saying the why?  Why this is going on or give me meaning…

VW: Yes.

MJ:   …out of a particular context?

KV:   it could be that but it’s also about sort of just there’s so much information now that people need it narrowed down for them as well and how do you do that?  How do you go from information to wisdom?

NM: It’s not necessarily clear is it?  Just a lot more of it.

MJ:   I love that though.

NM: Yes.

MJ:   How do you go from information to wisdom?  

VW: But we know how to get from information to knowledge.  That’s via experience.

MJ:   Right.

NM: I keep thinking of this chicken app and the fact that at a glance I can actually see for myself and evaluate and possibly have an emotional reaction to the conditions that are being represented which may or may not be reflected in the packaging of that product.

VW: Yes.  Sadly…

NM: this is the kind of information I want to be able to tell for myself and AR is a way of doing that at a glance so I found that fascinating that you chose that method.  Do you feel that there’s going to be more things like that not necessarily from you guys but from other places giving consumers at a glance empirical style or at least a gut feeling…

NM: …when the information too much?

VW: We’re doubling down on augmented reality. It’s the next mobile phone.  So I think VR is home entertainment.  It’s that scale of an opportunity.  Augmented reality is the scale of the mobile phone because it’s out there.  It’s everything that everybody does.  But just shipping AR apps I mean is also – I mean we’re going to keep building AR apps but we’re also building a platform for sharing information about – to augment products as well so for third parties to work on.

MJ:   There’s an interesting dilemma that presents itself in this context which is you talked about the beginning of CHOICE around transparency and trust and marketers ostensibly trying to trick, fool or otherwise – have an impact on consumers that wasn’t maybe as ethical as we might hope.  That’s – if you like I’m trying to summarise a big conversation there.  Then equally these days you see a lot of focus on social enterprise.  Companies that do have a social conscious and that want to put that into place. There’s a worldwide movement around donating one per cent of your time and your profits and your resources or whatever that might be.  So there’s two things at play there maybe philosophically.  How do you see that evolving in the context of what CHOICE is doing?

KV:   It’s the bread and butter of CHOICE.  So thinking – as we kind of mentioned earlier because the mission is so values driven, it’s about fair, just and safe markets, that’s already inherent to what CHOICE is interested in doing.  Our job really is to allow CHOICE or to enable CHOICE to keep doing that and find ways to keep doing that.

MJ:   Yes.

VW: But unlike a lot of mission driven organisations CHOICE has always been a social enterprise.

KV:   Yes.

VW: We build products to try and solve burning consumer problems, we don’t just advocate.  the magazine was there and is there as a product to help people and the new information and analysis products that we’re building are social – so when I talk about social enterprise I don’t mean giving one per cent of your – doing something destructive and then trying to buy some indulgences.  No.  Do something constructive.  Right?

MJ:   Right.

KV:   It’s what I mean by being already inherent to who CHOICE is.

MJ:  Well then how could other organisations learn from your experience? Because part of this is disrupt yourself but then also market the fact that you’re disrupting yourself.

VW:  Sure.

MJ:   Telling the story of your own disruption.

VW:  Yes.

KV:   one of the things that we’ve had many conversations about, Viv and I, is the fact that CHOICE works/operates on this purpose driven mission is actually a legacy benefit for us and a lot of organisations don’t have that.  Their mission statement’s around a product. that’s something that other organisations can take.  If you kind of have a purpose driven mission 50 years/60 years from now…

NM: Yes.

VW: It gives you agility.  It makes your strategy feel real.  I mean one of the most incredible things that I’ve found working at CHOICE is that the strategy document makes sense to people. It’s like you can see it and because it comes from a mission, because that mission comes from a purpose any organisation – purpose driven organisations actually have an incredible advantage in the current contemporary environment where the outside conditions are shifting.  If your underlying purpose is still relevant…

MJ:  Yes.

VW: …then you’re still relevant.

MJ:  Right.  All you’re doing is changing the tactics.

VW: Yes.

KV:  Yes.

MJ:   That’s so good.

NM: It’s pretty fascinating isn’t it?

NM: I want to know what you’re working on next in your box of new things in your lab.

MJ: What’s coming up next?

VW: So we’re building a lot of kind of advice and assistance products and bots are part of that and humans are part of that as well.  We’re building a platform – we’ve got a thing called and you go to that web address and it looks very geeky.

VW: Around all the things dot cloud we’re building an API which will make available information about every product and service available to Australian consumers.

MJ:  How will you do that?

NM: How will you keep it up-to-date?

VW: Well we’re not going to be the publisher of all of the information.  It’s a platform right?  So…

MJ: Okay.

VW: …there are great organisations with base information.  There’s the GS1 organisation for example.  They run the barcode database that’s underneath.  So they have something that’s a mile wide and an inch deep about every single product and then CHOICE has information that’s 10 miles deep about various products that we test in our independent testing labs for example.

MJ: Yes.

VW: So if we can put those two things together we’ve got the breadth and the depth which makes us kind of unique.  If we can make it an API that other people can read and write to and from…

NM: How about user reviews?

VW: We’ve done a technical implementation. We built an online community.  That was one of our first launches.

KV: Yes.

VW: So was started out by recruiting all of our campaign supporters and our dedicated users and one of the wonderful things about CHOICE is we get our first 10,000 users for pretty much free because we have this incredible – this member base of 170,000 people and another couple of hundred thousand people who support us in various ways.

KV:   Yes.

VW: Those people will leap onto the new thing.  Any start-up would dream of where do you get your first 10,000 users?  We just have to tell our member base

VW: We’ve shipped 17 experiments in the nearly two years we’ve existed and about four of them have gone anywhere.  But that’s the idea.

NM: That’s not a bad strike rate is it?

VW: It’s pretty good.

NM: What do you think is the overall effect on consumers in a market where the messaging is so thick and fast and telling you it’s a good deal?  Do you feel like that in fact that you’re sort of destroying trust at a wholesale level that nobody’s believing anything anymore?

VW: I think Rachel Botsman pointed out on your show and elsewhere that it’s not what you say. Anybody can say “trust us” but everybody is saying “trust us.”  People trust their friends. They trust their peers. They trust their experience.

MJ: It’s really interesting.  This whole conversation’s very challenging for us because obviously we’re in the brand storytelling and marketing game right so we help companies tell stories and we would hope that those stories would always have integrity.  That they would be true and that they would seek the best for their customers and I think generally speaking more marketers would say that’s the focus that they have.  But how do we kind of navigate a way forward?  I guess we’re probably going to be reflecting on this for quite some time right?  People who get into marketing do so for multiple reasons. But if you have an outlook – going back to your point about the core values of an organisation if the core values of those organisations are still ostensibly good and yet you have to differentiate yourself in the marketplace how do you do that in a way that kind of captures this conversation?

KV:   Shall we go back to having a purpose driven mission?

MJ:   Right.  So if the purpose isn’t right then fix it.

VW: Yes.

KV: I mean it’s what – I think our purpose really drives so the people that come to work at CHOICE are driven by its purpose and it’s a big, big deal for everybody there.

VW: You can fake it but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time right?  So we see this in – the egg market is a very nice illustration of it.  There are eggs out there that tell a beautiful story on the package and when you look under the hood actually no they’ve been fined a million dollars by the federal court for lying and animal cruelty.  On the other hand we have the good actors in the market, the really fantastic egg producers who came to us when we published our app gleefully telling us that their sales had doubled because people knew that they were the real deal.  So yes, you’ve got to find ways to make it clear it’s beyond saying it and consistently doing it and if third parties like CHOICE can honestly speak on your behalf to say that your story is true then I think that’ll help.

KV:  Our position we are able to speak truth to power.  It promotes the right type of organisations that come to us and say “please put us on your app.”

MJ:  Then presumably you go and interrogate them for a bit.

KV:  Yes.  You go and find out what their stocking densities are.  But the ones that come knocking on your door they’re doing it because they’re doing the right thing…

MJ:  They’ve got nothing to hide.

KV:   …and they’ve got nothing to hide and…

MJ:  Yes.

NM: But they’re not expecting you to sign them up to some sort of program.  They’re expecting you to do a bit of due diligence.

KV:   Yes and we are delighted by the opportunity to raise the profile of good players and dampen the profile of bad players.

VW: Yes.  Look it’s hard work but as a producer there is more work to be done now in opening up your supply chains, making all of that kind of thing more open, more honest, more transparent, finding out for yourself what’s happening in your supply chain and then telling people about it and…

KV: Yes.

VW: …that kind of openness is going to be rewarded.

MJ: Excellent.

NM: Do you think that there’s an opportunity there for marketers then go find the authenticity and their story and sell that?

VW: Yes.

NM: Tell people about that.  Find it – make it clear because if you don’t someone else will.

KV:  Yes.  I think also not just go find the authenticity in your story but go find the authenticity in your supply chain.

NM: Yes.

VW: If you’re like me and you can afford to cheat go find the organisations that have the best stories to tell and cheat by working for them.

MJ: Well there you go.

NM: That’s why I’m here.

MJ:  That is possibly the perfect place to end.  Can I thank you both very much for being our guests today on the show?  We’ve had a very enlightening conversation I’d like to say.

NM: We have added substantially to our list of amazing job titles of all the people who we get to interview.

MJ:   I know right?

MJ:   Yes.  So I appreciate that.  Well thank you both again for being our guests on the CMO Show, just been delightful.  Fantastic conversation and I wish you all the best with disrupting everything and…

VW: Thank you.

MJ:   …investing new things and doing everything that’s not connected to anything that’s otherwise nailed down.

VW: You got us in one.

MJ:  That’s right.  I wish you all the best for your careers.

VW: Thank you so much.

KV:  Thank you so much.

MJ:  So Nicole where do we go from here?

NM: Well I’d like some wisdom. Don’t just give me a pile of information.  It’s not enough anymore.  Frankly there’s too much of it.

MJ:  Yes. That was one of my favourite lines, from information to wisdom right?

NM: Yes…

MJ: So good.

NM: …and how do you get there?

MJ:   How do you get there?

NM: Then experience leads you to knowledge so…

MJ:  Well one of the old clichés is the knowledge economy right?  Well it’s all very well and good…

NM: You sound like a politician.

MJ: I know.

NM: Don’t do that Mark.

MJ:  I know.  I know.  Which is why it’s so tired right?  But you can have all the knowledge in the world but not the wisdom to know what to do with it.

NM: Exactly.

MJ: So that’s kind of where these guys fit in and I just loved that idea that firstly they’ve got the permission, the freedom, to really go after something and make it work.  You get the sense that their culture is thriving on this kind of stuff.

NM: that’s actually pretty fantastic that that’s your remit is to go out and attempt new things…

MJ:  Right.

NM: …which is exactly what he does.

MJ: The other thing is that because CHOICE is a legacy brand in the consumer’s mindset because I grew up with them in the sense of comparing products in the traditional kind of way right?  It’s really good to see that the core values are still there but they’re constantly looking at how they can reinvent the way that they do what they do in the context of a business model too.

NM: I like the idea that they’re using technology not just because it’s cool and therefore they’ve got to find an application but because in this case maybe technology is the way that you can provide the information in a way that is different to the din that you can get, the cut through and provide the meaning that…

NM: …the consumer is after.

MJ:  Yes.

NM: Not just a pile of words on a box but what it actually is.

MJ:  That’s right.  Preach it.  It’s awesome.  So we’d be interested to hear what you have to say about it.  What was your favourite bit of the conversation?  I’d love to get an email from you.  You can get us on the web.  You can find us at

NM: If any of you are out there in the retail space I kind of want to know whether you see this kind of thing as disruptive or whether you see it as a threat, whether it’s something that needs to be subverted or whether it’s an inevitable outcome that we’ll always find new ways to show consumers the depth of the product.

MJ:  If you were going to hire your own head of new things what would she or he do?

MJ:  So there it is, all about disrupting yourself and trying new things.

NM: I’m feeling disrupted.

MJ:  Yes.

NM: Are you?

MJ:  Slightly disturbed but in a good way.  That’s it for the show this time and we look forward to speaking with you next time.

NM: Until next time.  Bye.

MJ:  Bye.

Get in touch
I want to Filtered Media.