Masters of Marketing Interview: Grace Tsai, VP of Data Science and Analytics with Huge, Inc.

Hold onto your hats, folks! Clock Tower Insights exclusive interview series, Masters of Marketing, continues with Grace Tsai, Vice President of Data Science and Analytics with Huge, Inc. at their Detroit, Michigan location. They’re a full-service digital agency, incorporating user-centric research to uncover untapped needs throughout the customer journey and can be found in offices across the globe.

Experience is the Holy Grail of Marketing

Huge has a way of differentiating themselves amongst a sea of agencies seeming to do the same thing. Tsai believes their secret is in the mix. They make a real effort to embrace diversity when they hire people. “They embrace different ways of thinking and give us the freedom to say what’s on our mind, and it’s okay to be wrong. Because of that, pushing an idea through at Huge is easier and celebrated.” That creates a culture of innovation and diversity that really drew her to them.

Through celebrating that diversity, Huge is able to really stand out in the marketplace. It gives them the power to take user-centricity to the next level in terms of understanding what the next generation of consumers want and how they want to experience brands.

“There’s definitely a shift, going from a product-centric engagement to a more experience-centric engagement. It’s such a key desire for the next generation of consumers.” Tsai notes Huge realizes that the experience is the next holy grail. They are sure to focus on how to turn the vision of what consumers want into an actual, physical experience. Through a retail setting, they use AI – emotional intelligence detection – to get a sense of how to design an experience in the physical world and how to expect it will be perceived by users. “We’re taking things to the next level and tailoring to what the users want from the brand.”

A World of Difference

Prior to being with Huge, Tsai was very much an “omni-channel marketer,” she shares, “with a strong focus on how to make sense of the data and how to activate it to drive a higher conversion.” She says, “Coming to Huge, what has changed a lot for me was that shift of mindset. Conversion is still important, but we’re also realizing that you need to resonate with people emotionally.” It was a big shift in focus to see the amount of user research that tied the rational mind to intangible emotional signals and making sense of what people want. “I had to challenge myself to see how I talk to creative, how to paint a picture of consumers so they know how to design an experience in an app or on a site or in a physical store experience. There’s this constant zig-zag in my brain. The left and right brains are always talking to each other – the emotional and the rational.”

That’s a big change from how marketing is usually conducted. Often, professionals are really focused on one channel, but that’s not how consumers think about the brand, so marketers are really being pushed to think hard about what the right experience is for the users and to bring life to what they feel and want from a brand. “I’ve shifted my thinking so I can communicate better, so my counterparts can effectively design something.”

Taking a Stand Encourages Empathy

Huge isn’t afraid to take a stand for what they believe. “That’s one of the things I really like about Huge. They’re ballsy.” While many companies tend to stay away from immigration issues, gay/lesbian rights, or African American rights – things that are being suppressed –  Huge doesn’t shy away. Now Huge sponsors a cross-network movement where employees meet on a monthly basis and discuss difficult topics. “Agencies say they want to promote diversity, but they don’t encourage those conversations to get rid of the uncomfortable biases. One person at a time can make a difference. It’s very unique and profound.” The company is definitely not shy about taking a stand, organizing some kind of protest, proactively reaching out to the sexual violence protection group so people can donate and talk to those affected. “That’s not something you see lots of the big companies doing.”

Recently in Detroit, word was spread that African Americans have to do a code-switch, personality-wise, when they walk into their places of employment. “We had a few employees that started talking about it, and word spread,” she begins. “So yesterday we had a Town Hall where all the Detroit employees volunteered to experience what an African American household experienced. We paired up and got a question to be answered. We were asked from the standpoint of a kid questioning parents:

“Why is my skin dirty? Why is it brown?”

“Why do all the African American people sit together?”

“Why can someone say certain words, and I can’t, or vice versa?”

Tsai believes that this type of thinking has a direct impact on how Huge is able to relate to consumers on a personal level. “I think it makes me a better human and a more empathetic marketer,” she surmises. “I know my job representing my clients is having to realize the audiences we’re trying to appeal to are varied. Being exposed to things I wouldn’t have been exposed to prior to Huge, I have stronger human empathy and am being more mindful of how we represent our clients.”