FEATURE1 November 2010

Ups and downs – Tammy Smulders


SCB Partners managing director Tammy Smulders on industry bandwagons and getting the work/life balance right.

The best advice I’ve had is…
‘If you love something enough, you’ll find some way of making money from it.’ I have always loved looking into different subjects and finding out seemingly random things. I feel fortunate that I’m actually paid to find out about new things, dive deep into different subjects and meet fascinating people.

…and the worst advice I’ve had is
to give some people more chances to prove themselves when my intuition told me it wasn’t going to work out. I have a good sense for who has got what it takes.

A campaign that grabbed me recently is…
Louis Vuitton’s recent print campaign, featuring artisans at work on their leather products. The company is very in tune with the mood of consumers coming out of the recession. They understand the importance of moving away from logo products – conspicuous consumption for the sake of it. The campaign focuses on the quality and craftsmanship of their range of products and shows their enduring value; reassuring consumers that it’s OK to spend some money on them. It also makes me feel their products are special. They are now introducing personally monogrammed bags which I expect to be a huge hit.

…and a campaign that needed more research is
the ‘Lick the lid of life’ campaign for Müller Light yoghurts. Somehow I found it exceedingly annoying. I can’t imagine people who don’t eat the yoghurts regularly would buy them on the back of that campaign, and I can’t imagine people who eat them (like me) would buy more on the back of the adverts.

One thing this industry could use more of is…
a bigger profile among graduates and younger marketers because we are losing some good young people to advertising. I think many graduates who are naturally curious and who have excellent research skills are attracted to the advertising industry, which seems to have a higher profile for them. For many, their personalities, skills and passions would align better with research, but they don’t know anything about it, or even that the industry exists. I’m doing some talks at schools and campuses and I find that with an understanding of what we do, young people are excited about a career in market research. We need to do a better job of getting the word out.

…and one thing this industry could use less of is
bandwagons. I find the industry gets excited by a hot topic – such as social media monitoring or neuroscientific research – even if this is not really the best research solution for a problem. Often a new methodology may not be the best way to answer a research question, but, because of the buzz around it, there is an urge to try it for no real result. Companies need to consider carefully what the best methodology is for research, and not just follow the latest trend for the sake of it.

One thing I hope to do is…
serve as a mentor to young potentials. I find myself very focused on clients at the moment, with other members of our team focused on development of talent, but I really enjoy working with young potentials and hope to free up more time for this eventually.

…and one thing I wish I hadn’t done is
overwork myself, sometimes letting my personal life suffer. I have had too many late nights in the office, and weekends. Fortunately I seem to have that under control of recent.

If I hadn’t become a researcher…
I would be running a record label. I was actually running an electronic music label before I started SCB, which sort of took over.

…on the other hand if I hadn’t become a researcher
I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to get to know and understand the lives and social circles of people who are so different from me, which has deepened my understanding of the challenges that our society faces in the 21st century. Whereas most people simply read articles or watch television, as researchers we get to meet, know and appreciate all kinds of people, increasing our overall level of collective engagement.