- About Us
- Infosys Knowledge Institute
27 Jul 2019
Skyler Mattson, WONGDOODY President and Founder of The Motherboard discusses brand experience and what it’s like to lead an agency in today’s disrupted digital economy.
Hosted by Jeff Kavanaugh, VP and Head of the Infosys Knowledge Institute.
Skyler talks about her professional career at WONGDOODY.
When WONGDOODY became a part of the Infosys family?
Addressing one burning question - What does “WONGDOODY” mean?
Skyler’s approach to creativity: where to find it and how to nurture it throughout your career?
The big themes in World Economic Forum that relate to creativity. Skyler talks about the panel on AI hosted by Infosys and importance of making considerations regarding humanity in order to be a successful business.
Skyler shares her branding perspective on the differences between the next generation of consumers and customers and the older generation. Companies must understand their “why” and share it externally.
Skyler talks about the consumer research platform – agile insights practice. And the approach to getting insights from consumers.
Moms are the most powerful consumers in the world. Skyler explains The Motherboard – an online community of 2,000 moms.
The reasons for the disconnect between the most powerful consumers in the world and the way brands are trying to reach them. Why do brands fail to reach moms?
Example of how The Motherboard developed an agile insight for one Infosys’ client.
Skyler explains how brands can authentically connect with their consumers.
Skyler gives an example of one of the opportunities that Infosys brought to the table.
Looking at the agile part of The Motherboard. How much time does it take from having an idea to launching it and getting it out to the community?
Skyler talks about the quality of the responses produced by The Motherboard.
How are participants at the Motherboard incentivised? Are they paid?
Skyler talks about the next steps for The Motherboard and opportunities.
What kind of people does WONGDOODY hire?
What is the message WONGDOODY gives to people?
What are the books or authors that stood out as references or sources for Skyler’s career development?
Skyler talks about her mentors.
Skyler shares her thoughts on getting more women into the creative industry.
How can people find Skyler
Jeff Kavanaugh: Welcome to another episode of The Knowledge Institute where I talk with thought leaders and deconstruct their performance and approach so you can gain insights and apply them in your own life. This is Jeff Kavanaugh, happy to be joined by Skyler Mattson, president of Wongdoody on the topic of brand experience and what it's like to lead an agency in today's disruptive digital economy. Welcome Skyler.
Skyler Mattson: Thanks for having me, Jeff, in the beautiful Swiss Alps of Davos, Switzerland.
Jeff Kavanaugh: That's right, right here in the middle of the World Economic Forum. So I'm sure we'll dig into that as well. Well, first of all, can you tell me about yourself?
Skyler Mattson: Sure. So I have been with Wongdoody for 16 years, so I say my entire professional career because I don't want people to think I'm too old. And I have had the pleasure of growing up within the agency, starting as, I say, a baby assistant account executive and working my way to become an account executive and an account supervisor, account director. And now I am president of the agency and have the honor of helping the agency grow.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Awesome. And for the past year or so, you've been part of the Infosys family as well?
Skyler Mattson: Yes, so seven months ago we were acquired by Infosys and it has been easily the most exciting seven months out of my 16 years at Wongdoody because we have been given so many opportunities that frankly, I didn't even realize we were missing. And what that means is if we can dream it creatively, Infosys can build it for us.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Fantastic. But, before we get any further, we do have to address the one burning question. What the heck is a Wongdoody?
Skyler Mattson: I still laugh at the name, which is a good sign. It's a great icebreaker when we meet new clients. Wongdoody, the name, although quite hilarious, really has a very rational reason for being and that's it was founded by Tracy Wong and Pat Doody. Two gentlemen founded the agency 25 years ago and our CEO is Ben Wiener and we joke, thank goodness he never needed his name on the door.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Absolutely. Well, before we jump into the agency itself and some of the things you're working on, a lot of people, especially those that aren't in the creative business or creative agency business thing, where do you find your creativity? How have you tapped into that and how have you nurtured that over your career?
Skyler Mattson: I think for everyone it's a little different and because I am on the business side of things, I approach creativity in a very rational way. I approach it based on research, based on what's going on in the world, popular culture, based on consumer insights. We always start with a creative brief, which is the launching pad for our creativity. And I find the creation of that brief one of the most fulfilling and important parts of the process. Tracy Wong always says, "Give us the creative of a very narrow brief, give us that opportunity to build off of something." So we're always trying to solve a business challenge and that's where we start. And then looking to solve it in new ways that are going to be provocative and memorable and different from the ways that other people are trying to solve the same problem is where creativity comes into play.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Since you mentioned being here in Davos, Switzerland, before we jump into some of the topics, what do you see some of the big themes here that relate to branding or creativity?
Skyler Mattson: I've been pleasantly surprised by what I'm hearing here in Davos. As a first time attendee, I expected it to be very focused on the business of business. And what I'm hearing on day two is that really in order to create great business, you have to create a great world. And there's a lot of, there's a lot of necessary considerations regarding humanity that you need to make in order to be a successful business.
Skyler Mattson: For example, this morning's panel that Infosys hosted was on AI and I expected it to be about how AI is taking over everyone's jobs. What it was really about was how AI is going to take over these grueling tasks and that people will be given the opportunity to step up and take on more thoughtful tasks and be reskilled to take on tasks that are going to add more value to business.
Skyler Mattson: Yesterday's panel I also thought was more focused on humanity than I expected. There was a gentleman from Salesforce and he talked about how by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish and how can you do business in a world where there's no ocean? And I thought that those perspectives are surprising me here and making me very optimistic about the future of business when business is focused on the future of humanity.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Absolutely. That word purpose was used quite a bit. Putting your marketing or branding hat on, what does it mean for the next generation of consumers and customers? A message like that compared to maybe the older generation.
Skyler Mattson: It is important for companies to have purpose and for companies to share that purpose with their consumers. Millennials, especially, want to spend their money with companies who are fighting for something that they believe in, who are doing good with their profits. So it's so important for companies to understand their why, but not just internally, but to share that why out because consumers are making decisions not just on value or convenience or brand appeal in sort of the sexy way that Nike has become so popular or Apple has become so popular. The new consideration is now, is this a good company? Do I want to spend my money with them? How are they making the world a better place?
Jeff Kavanaugh: Yes, absolutely seeing more and more of that. And a bit of a lead-in to the other question, what is the big thing that you're working on? And maybe get into how you're reaching maybe a new market than you didn't have before.
Skyler Mattson: The big thing that I'm working on right now is a consumer research platform and we call it an Agile Insights practice. And everybody talks about Agile in software development, but when most companies do consumer research, it takes a very long time and it's very expensive. So the whole approach to getting insights from consumers needs to be Uberized, if you will.
Skyler Mattson: The Mother Board is an online community of 2000 moms and we started with moms because moms are incredibly powerful consumers. They make 85% of purchase decisions across every category. So when I first started talking about it, people say, "Okay, so brands who are selling diapers or brands who are selling cleaning products," and I say, "Yes, and financial institutions because you better believe mom is managing the wealth and automotive because mom's making the decision on the next vehicle purchase and travel and tourism." The list goes on and on. Moms control 2.5 trillion in consumer spending. So think of moms differently.
Skyler Mattson: Now, brands need to reach them and they need to reach them in authentic ways. What we also know, and this was a big topic at The Female Quotient, a lounge here in Davos, is that the majority of moms do not relate to the way that they're portrayed in advertising or really in any brand experience. So there's this massive disconnect between the most powerful consumer in the world and the way that brands are trying to reach her.
Jeff Kavanaugh: But weren't they spending all this money to try to reach them?
Skyler Mattson: And they were reaching them, but the message wasn't resonating or the way they were reaching them wasn't the way that moms should be reached. Part of the reason... well, there's really two reasons for that. One is historically people creating brand experiences and top executives in the creative industry are men. No offense, Jeff.
Skyler Mattson: The other, and I think more interesting reason and easier reason to solve for, is that a lot of companies are not doing consumer research with a diverse group of any consumer segment. We're talking about moms here. So most companies are talking to white middle-class moms who have 2.4 kids in some college and wear cardigans. When really we know that 42% of moms today are single. 48% of moms are the breadwinners. Yet brand experiences aren't featuring mom in this new modern light.
Skyler Mattson: So back to The Mother Board, 2000 moms, some of them are single. We have racial diversity, working moms, non-working moms, LGBTQIA moms, the list goes on. So if a brand needs to talk to a very specific segment, we can slice the entire pool to get that segment and brands start by very simply administering surveys to ask what's on mom's mind. But then those lead to much deeper engagements like video diaries or shop alongs or further along in the process, usability testing or prototype testing, getting mom's inputs. That's then changing the products that brands are choosing to make.
Jeff Kavanaugh: What's an example of a research topic or question then maybe follow it through just to show how that Agile Insight developed?
Skyler Mattson: So we recently did some work with an Infosys client, a global client, a CPG brand, and it was a baby formula. They brought us in because they were looking for new D-to-C strategies. So how can we get this formula into the hands of new moms in new and innovative ways? And we said, well, let's use The Mother Board to find that out. And there was a large expectation that we would learn about things like subscription service and loyalty programs, very functional ideas on ways that would make baby formula more convenient to get. But instead we got back lengthy video diaries about guilt associated with formula feeding. These moms couldn't even get to how to buy the formula. All they were talking about was the societal pressure to breastfeed your baby and this horrible feeling of failure when that wasn't possible for you or the best thing for you or your child and this desire for a formula company to just address that.
Skyler Mattson: And so we were able to go back to this client and say, wow, it's not just about a subscription service. It's a much bigger emotional consideration. Why don't you serve up videos that shows you understand this? When a mom is searching on Google for formula purchase, you then become her ally and express that you know that this is hard. And how about not just a subscription service, but one that could be gifted so that she feels like she's around a community where a mom can gift it or girlfriends can gift it. It can become a baby shower gift. So that there's less of this, "Ugh, I have failed," and more of this, "I'm supported by a group of people who understand what I'm going through."
Skyler Mattson: And it was really powerful to bring these videos to the table to a client who was expecting a lot of functional information with something so much more powerful. And now the client is evaluating their D-to-C strategy in light of this very powerful insight.
Jeff Kavanaugh: So you get psychological support, not just some kind of marketing automation tool.
Skyler Mattson: Exactly.
Jeff Kavanaugh: And what's interesting is the approach you're taking was backed by some pretty solid technology, [inaudible 00:00:12:30]. So it wasn't one or the other.
Skyler Mattson: It's exactly right. And I think it really highlights how important qualitative data is and thick data, which is the qualitative really in-depth insights that tell you why somebody feels the way they feel or acts the way they act. It's a really solid compliment to Infosys who has all of this big data and the big data can tell us who bought what, where they bought, when they bought, and it's really powerful information, but it can't always tell us why they bought or their emotional state when they were buying. And those types of insights coupled with the big data, is really going to give brands a glimpse into how to authentically connect with their consumer.
Jeff Kavanaugh: No, that's powerful. Is this something that's in the US for the most part, are you internationally?
Skyler Mattson: We are in the US, Canada and Australia. So starting with the English speaking countries, but with the power of Infosys, we will soon be expanding to around the world and soon be expanding to other consumer segments. So this is one example of the opportunity Infosys is bringing to the table. Without Infosys, we had moms in the US. With Infosys, we will have any consumer segment that a client is interested in reaching in any part of the world.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Wow. That's pretty powerful. If you can look at the Agile part of it, what's the time it takes from an idea that someone's brought to you from actually launching it and getting it out there with this tribe or this group of people?
Skyler Mattson: 48 hours.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Wow.
Skyler Mattson: 48 hours. And the responses are coming back within an additional 24 hours. And the reason it's so quick is because the community is always on. We are constantly engaging with them so we aren't just waiting for a brand assignment. Weekly, we are putting out topics of interest and asking these moms to weigh in on products or loyalty programs or even things like back to school and how they're prepping for that or the stress of the holidays and the role of mom versus dad during the holiday planning. And because of that, this group is so passionate. I'm surprised each time when we put out a survey how quickly we close it and cap it because we have enough responses and the quality of the responses.
Skyler Mattson: We're not getting these one word answers or one sentence answers. We get really in-depth responses and we go through those to find common themes and then reach out to a smaller group and have them elaborate on those themes usually via video diaries because it's just a richer experience. And it's more powerful bringing the video diaries to a client to say, "Look at what we're hearing," versus having it be in a written report. And it's really helpful for people to then sell something through and socialize it through their own companies when they have these videos that really can't be ignored.
Jeff Kavanaugh: So you're not just saying fill out the survey and we'll give you money and it's transactional. Are you paying these people?
Skyler Mattson: They are getting incentivized through Amazon points, which they can redeem for Amazon gift cards. Yet the messaging to the community is one of empowerment and one of a deep respect for their time and their opinions and their desire to create products that are going to be more useful to them and their families.
Jeff Kavanaugh: So it sounds like they're actually using this as a platform for a voice, not just to get some points.
Skyler Mattson: They really are. And sometimes we put things out that have zero points attached and we have the same participation rate.
Jeff Kavanaugh: What's the next step for The Mother Board? You mentioned some new segments, growth...
Skyler Mattson: So this is interesting. Really there are so many opportunities, geographic growth, consumer segment growth. We want to be mindful of where the business is. This is a paid service offering. Are there clients in a particular category who have the same consumer segment? Are there big accounts within Infosys who really need consumer insights to make more of an impact? And in conversations recently in Bangalore two weeks ago and here in Davos, I'm uncovering that farmers are a very large segment, an important segment for many Infosys clients. And so we're going to be branching out to farmers and creating a community of passionate tech savvy consumers who want to tell companies and brands who they use, what they want and what they need and how to better service them.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Fantastic. Being a farmer myself, that's very exciting.
Skyler Mattson: You'll be the first member to the farmer board.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Yeah, looking forward to it. What kind of people do you hire on your team to do all this great work?
Skyler Mattson: Really all types. It's so important to have diversity when you're in a creative field because then you get different points of view. So with The Mother Board specifically, we have strategists, we have researchers, we have account teams who really understand what a client is trying to get at to help design the methodology that we're going to use. We bring the input that we get from The Mother Board to creative teams, people with backgrounds in psychology and sociology and art and design and writing. And they help develop the implications that the insights lead to. We never want to come to a client with, "Here are the report findings." We come to the client with a diverse team coming together and saying, "Based on what we just heard, here are three things that you can do to innovate your brand."
Jeff Kavanaugh: Getting the right talent is a big part of being able to produce this. It's great work. What's the message you give to people? Do you hire from campus, first of all? Or do you typically hire experienced professionals?
Skyler Mattson: All levels and more and more, the entry level talent is so powerful because they've grown up in this digital world and are so savvy when it comes to social media and so in tune with popular culture that it's really fantastic to have them on our team.
Skyler Mattson: And then we have seasoned members who've been at the agency for 15 plus years. And really just having a large range is very important. Recruiting is the most important thing we do. Our people really create what we deliver. We don't manufacture products. What we deliver is our ideas and so our talent is everything. And in terms of recruiting talent, there are a couple of things. One is we want people to feel like they are going to be able to do their best work and especially for creatives, they need to know they can build a beautiful portfolio. And the second thing is they want to come to a place where it's cool to hang out.
Skyler Mattson: We work long hours and we have a lot of stressful situations. So the fact that you can wear your flip flops in LA when it's 80 degrees out and your dog can be sitting under your desk and we're going to blow off steam by riding bikes or hiking up the hill behind the agency is really important, too. So this balance of excellence in our craft with not taking ourselves too seriously as we are creating what we create has really been a successful balance and has helped us continuously throughout 25 years of business attract the best talent in our field.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Fantastic. If you had to think about the sources for your own career development, what books or authors have really stood out as as references or sources that have helped?
Skyler Mattson: There's a great book called The Art of the Pitch and we pitch so much new business. I'm blanking on the author's name.
Jeff Kavanaugh: That's okay. We'll include in the show notes. Any mentors you've had in the past?
Skyler Mattson: Tracy Wong and Ben Wiener are incredible mentors to me, our founder and our CEO. And the fact that they are both men and have been such a champion for my career has been really such a blessing. I've been in a little bit of a bubble at an agency that is so supportive of women in leadership, but I realize it's not the norm. Because of their mentorship and support and faith in me, it has really made me now want to pay it forward and champion getting more women into creative industries, supporting them throughout their career growth, making sure they understand that you can have a family and still come back to work because I think that's where things taper off for women. The same amount of women as men are coming into creative industries, but the working hours and demands to be ready at any moment when a client needs something or there's a new business pitch, make it very difficult to balance life with a family.
Skyler Mattson: And I think that modeling that you can do that has been very important for me. At The Female Quotient here in Davos, which I mentioned, there was a giant poster on the wall that said, "If you see her, you can be her." And I loved that because it's so important for me to show the women at our agency you can have a family, you can prioritize that when you need to prioritize that and it doesn't mean you're going to be any less effective at your job. You're just going to be a hell of a lot better at time management than anybody else in the agency because you're going to get things done in the pockets that you have available.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Got It. Well, those are the things I wanted to cover. Is there anything else that we didn't discuss or asked that you'd like to bring up?
Skyler Mattson: I don't think so. Thank you for the interview and for doing it in this gorgeous setting of snow covered Swiss Alps.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Absolutely. We should be up there at the top of the mountain with some cocoa or something stronger. Question: How can people find you if they wanted to reach out?
Skyler Mattson: Via Wongdoody.com. My contact information is there. Also via The Mother Board and my contact information is there. And Linkedin, I think, is the greatest place to connect with people and I always connect back.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Awesome. Well, Skyler, thank you so much for your time and I'm sure people really enjoy listening.
Skyler Mattson: Thank you.
Skyler is the President at WONGDOODY, a human experience agency powered by Infosys, a global consulting and IT services company. She has built her career building customer experiences for clients across a range of categories, from consumer-packaged goods, to technology, to entertainment. She oversees efforts for global brands including Amazon, P&G, and Kraft-Heinz.
Skyler is Founder of The Motherboard, a global community of thousands of moms who advise companies how to innovate for better brand experiences. She is making it her mission to support moms in the workplace and to more authentically connect with them in marketing.
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