Vanessa Vachon, Global Head of Insights & Analytics for Sanofi Consumer Healthcare, joined the most recent meeting of the Yale-Ipsos Think Tank to share her work to enhance and embed the use of behavioral science within her organization.
Using proprietary frameworks developed by Faculty Fellows at the Yale Center for Customer Insights (YCCI), Vanessa has spent much of the past three years working to embed behavioral science (BeSci) at each level of the insights function of Sanofi Consumer Health Care, creating a cross-brand group of advocates that she refers to as “champions.” In a webinar delivered to the Yale-Ipsos Think Tank in June, Vanessa outlined a three-phase implementation plan designed to create excitement about behavioral science and showcase its impact and success at driving growth across categories.
When looking to transform a business function, it’s tempting to set a strict timeline with a clear completion date, but the case study Vanessa presented is a compelling testament to the idea that creating a high-functioning insights and behavioral science-driven business strategy is a marathon, not a sprint.
Three Phases Implementation
A recurring theme across phases is the need to create advocates in each group of your organization to ensure consistent implementation and momentum across functions. Whether your management team understands behavioral science and/or if they’re new to the principles and frameworks, it’s key to establish buy-in from leadership at an early stage. Many within the organization may be interested in behavioral science as a topic and wonder, “How can I leverage this to drive growth and measurable change?” Capturing that interest, fostering excitement, and creating momentum for change within the organization are the top functions of the seed phase.
The pilot phase is designed to address the many questions about behavioral science applications that arise throughout your organization during the seed phase. If you find that people are excited and interested in behavioral science, a personalized workshop is the next step. Attendees of the initial workshop at Sanofi represented outside agency partners, marketers, research colleagues, and insights colleagues, as well as the heads of media and marketing excellence. While the workshop included an introduction to the basics of BeSci, there were also smaller breakout sessions focused on framing brand value and messaging to mindset led by Yale experts. These breakout sessions gave attendees the opportunity to focus on specific challenges within their organization and to understand how theory can be translated into practice.
Apply and Scale
The third phase seeks to bridge the divide between academic principles and actionable insights at the business level. These projects often stem from ideation at the initial workshop, as seen in the case of an existing Sanofi digestive health brand. Following the workshop, Yale collaborated on a campaign for this brand, working exclusively around an “aha” moment experienced by the Sanofi team during the messaging to mindset lecture. The joint exploration of goals and context activations led to proactive language changes that ultimately increased brand growth by nearly 20%.
In addition, Sanofi used Yale’s Beliefs-Goals-Choices (B-G-C) framework to identify areas for growth for specific brands in its portfolio, focusing on implementing the framework across categories, identifying adjacent consumer beliefs and context-activated goals. This facilitated an overall shift in thinking and research methods employed by researchers. Vanessa encouraged her teams to use behavioral science to add a layer of “human understanding, context and culture, and foresight” to existing analytics and data analysis.
Barriers to Application
Beyond applying BeSci principles to marketing campaigns, Vanessa employed the B-G-C framework to foster meaningful change within the teams she manages. She identified the existing beliefs and personal motivations of her team, as well as the barriers to activating BeSci that the organization may encounter.
Some common beliefs around behavioral science that serve as barriers to implementation include the following:
- I know all I need to know about consumers and marketing
- Behavioral Science is complicated
- Behavioral Science is theoretical and expensive
- I don’t have time to learn a new framework
- I don’t see how I can grow my business immediately
To combat these beliefs, Vanessa included funds for pilot projects in budgets across departments to make them easier to implement. She also provided category-specific examples of brand growth using BeSci frameworks and relied on her champions to foster excitement and keep momentum on teams outside of her direct leadership sphere.
“It’s important to identify what an academic partner is really most helpful with – whether it’s as a sounding board, a screening device for potential agency partners, or to help tighten your frameworks. You need to know how to use that partner efficiently,” noted Ravi Dhar, Faculty Director of the Yale Center for Customer Insights. In its work with Sanofi, the YCCI provided direction in the development of strategic goals and integration of frameworks while outside vendors conducted granular research, working in unison to achieve Sanofi’s organizational goals.
The experiences Vanessa shared indicate a clear need for organizational buy-in and commitment to what often seems like a daunting process. By creating cross-category champions and exposing organizational leaders early in the process, Vanessa established a clear agenda and path forward. Supported by real market results and a drive to humanize the ways in which Sanofi communicates with consumers, the imperative to elevate the insights function using behavioral science is clear and should be treated as a priority.