Prepared Foods talks consumer insights with Lesle Na, Director of Business Development with Ibotta Insights. It is a consumer research agency under the umbrella of Ibotta, whose smartphone app lets consumers earn cash back on in-store, mobile app, and online purchases with receipt submission, linked retailer loyalty accounts, payments, and/or purchase verification. 

At a Glance: Leslie Na

2019-Present: Director of Business Development, Ibotta Insights; Mentor, Boomtown Accelerators 

2018-2019: Founder, Truth Bomb (customer insights) 

2014-2018: Plant-based Food & Beverage Consumer Insights Manager - Silk & So Delicious, Danone North America

2012-2014: Shopper Insights Manager - Top US Grocers, East and Midwest, Procter & Gamble

2010-2012: CMK Manager - Global Skin Care (Olay, SKII), Front End Innovation, Procter & Gamble

2009-2010: CMK Manager, North America Oral Care (Crest, Oral-B), Procter & Gamble

2008-2009: Associate Consumer Insights Manager, North America Oral Care (Fixodent), Procter & Gamble

2007: Web Content Developer, Bridge Worldwide

2006-2007: Junior Copywriter, Powers Agency

BA, Public Relations, Syracuse University
Minors in Retail Management, Consumer Studies.

Na started her research career at Procter & Gamble, where she worked within the company’s Sales organization and led research in North America and throughout Asia. She joined WhiteWave Foods and led research for their plant-based food and beverage division.

Na will speak from 1-1:45 p.m. EST at Prepared Foods’ New Products Conference on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020. Her topic will be “Garbage In, Garbage Out: The Power of Verified Buyers.” Joining her for this exclusive talk is Travis Spaeth, Senior Director of Strategy and Analytics at Birch Benders.

Learn more and register!

Prepared Foods: You have a fascinating background! How would you describe your path from college to public relations and copy writing—all the way to the worlds of consumer insights and strategic innovation? What were some key moments for you?

Leslie Na: I was fresh out of college, making pittance as a copywriter at various agencies, and having a great time. My dad, a conservative Chinese immigrant, was convinced that I wasn't working a "real" job. He wore me down after four years (using health benefits as a lure) and I applied to Procter & Gamble. 

I loved understanding what makes people tick (still do!), so I joined their consumer research department. A few companies, countless brands and several trips around the world running every type of research imaginable later, I'm still loving it!

PF: How would you describe the consumer insights field? On one hand, it seems consumers move at such a dizzying, tech-enabled pace and that all trends and fads seem to speed up that much more. As a result, it’s a little more challenging to perceive meaningful habits, activities, etc. 

On the other hand, all that tech leads to so much more that we can know from literal “clicks” and even artificial intelligence. We've come a long way since the days of pressing paper surveys into peoples’ hands from a street corner. 

Na: I wouldn't say technology has gotten in the way of understanding people; on the contrary, it's enabled it. Technology has allowed us to talk to people in real-time, at their leisure, wherever they're comfortable—all over the world. This has especially been a lifesaver during a global pandemic. We can still connect with people virtually even if can't do so safely, in person.

PF: What were some important learnings from your Procter & Gamble career?

Na: My last role at P&G was my favorite. I was embedded as a researcher within the Sales organization and I was calling on food customers. Truly, nothing matters if you can't sell it. 

I apprenticed in the shadow of many sales giants, absorbing the art of establishing and growing business relationships as well as the craft of verbal and written communication and negotiation. I still carry those life lessons with me.

PF: And how about what you learned at White Wave and Danone North America?

Na: Danone (White Wave Foods at that time) gave me a lot of license to not only run insights for the Silk brand, but influence the entire business. Consequently, I worked extremely closely—every day—with both Marketing and R&D. It also wasn't uncommon for me to work with Finance, Supply, Project Management, and just about everyone else who touched the business. 

That experience really gave me insight into and an appreciation for how an entire business works.

PF: When and why did Ibotta create Ibotta Insights? Broadly, how does your group address an industry need?

Na: Have you ever stumbled upon something so good that it'd be a crime to keep it to yourself?  A few years ago, someone at Ibotta discovered that the data they were collecting was not just good for their promotional clients, but that it could be game-changing for research clients as well. 

The reason is that, historically, all research has been based on what buyers claim to be true, which has left a large discrepancy in accuracy. But with our data, we can verify buyers and their behavior! The level of quality and the depth to which we can analyze behavior has been nothing short of astounding. Not only that, but we've used the data to innovate methodologies that have long been accepted as status quo. 

PF: In regard to your upcoming New Products Conference presentation, where do you see disconnects between innovation, R&D and those involved in consumer insights?

Na: Consumer Insights is a key spoke on the wheel. Obviously, a business cannot cater to 100% of their consumers' wants and needs, but things go off the rails when important, consistent themes in research and analytics are ignored. 

Businesses are the most successful when Insights work hand-in-hand with Marketing and R&D and everyone agrees to put the consumer first and pay close attention to the marketplace trends and its players. 

Na will speak from 1-1:45 p.m. EST at Prepared Foods’ New Products Conference on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020. Her topic will be “Garbage In, Garbage Out: The Power of Verified Buyers.” Joining her for this exclusive talk is Travis Spaeth, Senior Director of Strategy and Analytics at Birch Benders.

Learn more and register