Toluna’s Gutsiest Brands Podcast: Tiny Wins with Rochelle Wainer, Ph.D.

Published Oct 05, 2023

Season 2, Episode 2

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Check out the latest lessons from our Gutsiest Brands podcast as we sit down with Rochelle Wainer, SVP of Global Insights and Analytics at Kids2. She shares what it means to be a “boomerang brand”, the importance of celebrating the tiny wins, and why fostering curiosity in kids is key to preparing them for the future.

Rochelle says the first job she ever had was babysitting as a young teen, and that she’s always loved focusing on families, kids and babies, which is something that has remained constant throughout her career. Rochelle has a master’s and Ph.D. in Child Development Psychology, and more than 25 years’ experience with retail channels and brands including Mattel and PepsiCo, and has worked with brands like Netflix, Children’s Place and Jello as a consultant. She has combined her expertise in childhood development with a love of consumer insights, landing her at Kids2, the company behind brands such as Baby Einstein and Bright Starts.

Here’s some of what she’s learned along the way…

Takeaway #1 – Have a Mission and Live It

At Kids2, they have a mission to build an interconnected ecosystem of products, content, tech, and community. “Our goal is to help families and help parents. Becoming a new parent for the first time is a challenging transition, and our goal is to make that easier and let parents focus on their time together with their new baby.” Rochelle says they do that by providing products that produce small wins throughout the day. Kids2 is focused on “having that purpose and really being consumer-driven in our approach. We think about our parents and our babies, of course, who are our end users. We think about how we make it easy for them to achieve [their] goals.” But it doesn’t stop there. “It’s become so ingrained in me that honestly, I do it in my personal life,” says Rochelle. “I’m no longer a first-time parent, but I think about my life like that. If I’m busy doing things and something small happens, but it’s such a positive momentum for my day, I’m like, oh, tiny win. It really just becomes a part of who we are, and we do live and breathe it.”

Takeaway #2 – Get Behind Your Product by Getting Curious

When it comes to the Baby Einstein brand, the trick to developing the right content and products is to remain curious. Rochelle sometimes jokes that “I run a consumer insights and shopper insights global team, but my side job is child development. I love both.” Bringing the two together is all about inspiring curiosity. “Baby Einstein at its core has always been about curiosity. We talk about ‘why is curiosity important and how is that a predictor for the future? Why do parents want to inspire curiosity?’” Rochelle and Kids2 developed a white paper that takes a closer look at the STEAM learning philosophy, which drives their product development and their content for Baby Einstein. She says the only way to prepare kids for the future is to get them “asking the right questions and learning and being curious.” In the end, the curiosity Rochelle instills in her team connects the dots between the brand’s mission and the needs of the consumer.

Takeaway #3 – Be a Boomerang Brand

Gutsy brands pioneer new paths, and at Pepsi, Rochelle was able to pioneer a new way of looking at generational marketing. “We were really trying to understand at what point in people’s lives do they get exposure to brands? Do they start to adopt them? And then what are the drivers of loyalty? How does that ebb and flow throughout their lifetime? Because the marketing and the brand messaging that you do becomes important at the right time,” Rochelle says. So they conducted some qualitative research and looked at people’s major milestones and how they are exposed to brands in different settings at different stages of life. “One of my favorite things that came out of the research was something we called a Boomerang Brand.” Rochelle explains that we are often exposed to brands well before we choose them ourselves (such as with the laundry detergent our parents bought). When these consumers grow older and begin making choices for themselves and their kids, they may boomerang back around to a familiar or nostalgic brand. “It was a really interesting concept that even if there are consumers that aren’t currently into your category or buying, they may come back around again.”

Takeaway #4 – Dig into Research that Moves the Needle

Rochelle knows that moving the needle for a business is about not just doing research, but doing research that matters. “Market research isn’t driving revenue directly. So how do we make sure that we’re doing the most with what we have and driving revenue and driving conversations with our retailers?” Rochelle says it’s about partnering with the right people and vendors for their concept testing and qualitative research. “What we’re trying to achieve is to understand the consumer, get the feedback on our products, and get the right insights. I think it’s being smart about the research that we do that we know is going to drive the business and inform our partners cross-functionally.” But it doesn’t stop there – the teams at Kids2 share their research through a knowledge management system so company employees and partners can all access important information 24/7. In the end, “one plus one is more than two because we need to be small but mighty,” Rochelle says.

Takeaway #5 – Evolving is Key

Rochelle says that for any brand, it’s important to understand consumer needs, but also how those needs change over time, and therefore continually evolve solutions and products in order to meet those evolving consumer needs. As both someone who has worked on the brand, and as a customer herself, Rochelle says Netflix has been highly successful in keeping tabs on and evolving with changing consumer needs. “If you go back to where Netflix started and what they were solving for, it was entertainment needs.” She remembers the challenge of choosing just 2 DVDs to entertain her entire family in the early days of Netflix, but “it was such an important part of family time.” Fast forward to present day, Netflix has evolved with the times (sunsetting their DVD mail service in September) and is now at everyone’s fingertips (literally) via streaming. Even with a son in college and her mom living in a different state, Rochelle’s family can still share family time with entertainment by watching the same shows, sharing recommendations, etc. Even though how we consume entertainment has changed dramatically in the last ten plus years, Netflix has continued to be a top player in meeting those consumer needs for it.

Rochelle’s Best Advice?

Rochelle says, “My best advice to leaders to become a gutsy brand is to solve a problem or enhance something in people’s lives. To have a reason for being but never rest on that. To really evolve and make sure you continue to do that for our consumers.”

Keep Learning

Catch up on Rochelle’s full interview by listening to the Gutsiest Brands podcast. If you are interested in how your brand can uncover the deep customer insights that can enable you to lead with empathy, pioneer new paths, stand behind bold ideas, and lean into “the power of AND,” we’d love to help. Drop us a note!

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