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Internship Spotlight: Victoria Bush ’23, GEM

Victoria Bush ’23 looks back at her experience this summer as an intern with GEM, a vitamin company that creates whole-food nutritional chews. 

We asked rising second-year MBA students to check in from their summer internships, where they are applying the lessons of their first year at Yale SOM.

Victoria Bush

Victoria Bush ’23

Internship: Consumer Insights Intern at GEM
Home country/state: Washington, D.C.
Pronouns: she, her, hers
Clubs and affiliation: Nonprofit Board Fellows, Startup & Entrepreneurship Club, Discovery Project, Silver Cohort Representative
Favorite SOM professor: Kai Hao Yang
Favorite New Haven eatery: Archie Moore’s
Favorite thing in New Haven: East Rock Park
Favorite Yale SOM class: Yale Center for Consumer Insights (YCCI) Discovery Project, Innovator, Workforce

We know we should eat our veggies, sleep more, and exercise, yet we still find it difficult to build these healthy routines. This is a classic case of the intention-action gap that has been so thoroughly documented in behavioral science and decision-making research. Since taking a managerial decision-making class in college, I’ve been fascinated by the way we can use “nudges” to improve our behavior, specifically health behaviors. Behavioral science research can be leveraged both on the small scale and on the larger scale to make the world a healthier place. From something as simple as having an accountability buddy for exercising to changing the choice architecture of health insurance forms, decision-making science has the power to improve health and quality of life worldwide.

Last spring, I had the amazing opportunity of working with my team on a YCCI Discovery Project. Our team was asked to identify how our client might make their product more interesting to a younger demographic. We conducted interviews in the field, and ultimately came up with actionable recommendations for ways in which the client could improve both their infrastructure and messaging to cater more to younger generations.

For my internship, I was hoping to gain experience in consumer insights, ideally in the health and wellness space, so I felt very lucky to get to work at GEM this past summer. GEM is a real food vitamin company that believes in the idea that food is medicine. GEM’s founder, Sara Cullen, started the company with the idea that the best nutrition comes from real food, not the distilled synthetic versions of vitamins and minerals that you find in drug stores. GEM makes a vitamin that looks like an energy bite and is made of nutrient-dense whole food ingredients such as turmeric, algae, and chia seeds. Because these foods are in their natural form, they are more easily absorbed by our bodies.

During the interview process, I shared my Discovery Project experience with the company’s founder and was asked to conduct a similar project. I felt so grateful that YCCI gave me the tools to do such an in-depth investigation as I adapted the structure that my team had used for our Discovery Project to generate actionable insights and recommendations for GEM.

I started by conducting an online ethnography. I reviewed GEM’s social media and sorted through tweets and Facebook posts about GEM, its competitors, and the vitamin and supplement industry more generally. I started seeing patterns and trends in the way people talked about vitamins and supplements. I used the YCCI Belief-Goal-Choice framework to organize my research, insights, and recommendations. I then conducted 25+ interviews with GEM customers about their wellness routines, health attitudes and goals, and their experience with GEM. I referred back to our Discovery Project lecture to conduct my own Insight Generation Session and distilled all of the consumer data I had gathered into final recommendations for GEM. These recommendations ranged from easy-to-implement, short-term changes in messaging to longer-term structural changes.

From our Discovery Project I remembered Professor Nathan Novemsky saying that the most interesting consumer insights are found in contradictions. While looking at GEM’s social media, I noticed that a lot of their messaging was around how great the vitamin bites taste. This was in response to negative reviews about the taste. I personally like the taste of GEM bites, but I recognize that they taste “healthy,” which is not for everyone. During interviews, however, people barely talked about the taste. They talked about how nutritious the bites were and how they had all this renewed energy since starting to take GEM. They talked about how their hair wasn’t falling out as much anymore and how their blood tests stopped showing vitamin deficiencies. People clearly cared more about getting their nutrients than the taste. One person even went so far as to say, “Honestly, if you can make the bites even healthier, I would gladly have it taste like grass.”

This contradiction between GEM’s messaging about taste and the importance customers placed on the nutrition seemed like the perfect opportunity for an insight intervention. I recommended that instead of fighting against the negative reviews about taste, GEM lean in to the taste of their bites. I suggested messaging that prioritized the nutrition rather than the taste. Leaning in to the taste also provides an opportunity to poke fun at the negative reviews about the taste. I suggested messaging along the lines of, “If you want a brownie, have a brownie. If you want a nutrient-packed bite, take your GEM.”

I had so much fun speaking with GEM customers, and it has been so exciting to see GEM already implementing some of my messaging recommendations in their Instagram posts and stories. I felt so equipped to tackle this project with the tools that YCCI and the Discovery Project gave me, and I can’t wait to apply this structure and way of thinking to other projects in the future!

Victoria Bush is a recipient of The Edwin Thorne (Class of 1935) Scholarship Fund (2021-2022).