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Interview with Regina Lewis

Over the past 23 years I have met many talented people. Our industry is filled with people who are bright, creative and solid researchers. I had the privilege of meeting Regina Lewis seven years ago.

Regina is such a special person. I am sure everyone has been associated with people who every time you speak with them or see them you gain a little more respect for them. They seem to get smarter or funnier or on the mark with an industry trend that you didn’t think about or frankly didn’t see. Regina is that person to me. She is clearly a leader at Dunkin Brands and in the research industry. In fact, she is one of the best presenters in the research industry.

Regina’s background includes being a teacher as well as working on both the client and vendor side.

I hope you enjoy getting to know Regina Lewis a little bit.

MD How did you start your research career?
RL While I flirted with research during various marketing internships while in school, I truly began my marketing research career upon entering the Communications program at UNC-Chapel Hill with the goal of earning my PhD.

I was drawn to that program for many reasons … but primarily because I realized early into my Marketing career that what I really cared about were the reasons *why* people make certain choices. Immediately upon beginning this second level of my graduate work, I knew I had found my niche.

Regina Lewis, PhD VP, Consumer & Brand
Insights Group Dunkin’
Brands, Inc.

MD What advice would you give entry level staff looking to get into the marketing research industry?
RL I would advise them not to be picky, but rather to dive in and get their hands dirty doing *something* that could advance them in the insights field. Whether through working at a field data house or by managing the day-to-day duties at a facility, the most critical thing is that entry-level people become exposed to others in the field. As is true of all things in life, the creation of an insights career is all about networking.
MD What do you think is the number one issue that the market research industry is facing today?
RL From the client perspective, the number one issue facing the industry today is a decline in research precision. While my team manages a significant budget, we increasingly work with only a handful of boutique suppliers whom we know we can trust. I worry a great deal about issues revolving around sample quality, data quality, analytics quality, and much more.
MD What are your key factors in selecting a research partner?
RL My team seeks out scenarios in which we work hand-in-hand — directly — with research specialists whom we consider to be smarter than ourselves. We are not interested in companies who are generalists; rather, we seek out companies who are the *best* — and truly ground-breaking! — in segmentation work, pricing work, re-concepting work, what have you. While we are not seeking “thought leadership” (the buzzwords of the day!), we are seeking to learn and strengthen our methodological core.
MD What is your funniest marketing research story or memory?
RL Hmmm. Perhaps when I designed what I considered to be the most clever diary study ever … only to see it fall apart because members of my 16- to 18-year old respondent pool could not figure out how to Fed Ex their recorded musings back to me. I had provided the envelopes and everything … but how were they to know how to use a Fed Ex drop off?!
MD How important is research with the c-level at Dunkin Donuts?
RL Our Dunkin’ executives know that our business over the next 10 years is going to live or die by our willingness to let our consumers guide us. I’m in a very, very fortunate place.
MD What is the biggest challenge that Dunkin’ Donuts currently is facing?
RL How to take a Regional powerhouse not only National, but International! Whether around menu, concept, packaging or brand, challenges abound. It is my team’s job to steer the ship.
MD What are the three most important skills you try to teach everyone on your research team?
RL
  1. Collaboration. By this I refer not only to the ABCs of client management, but also that magic that makes managers across functions want to be seated at our table.
  2. Optimism. Unless we believe that we can make the business stronger — every day — why should our internal clients believe we can do this?
  3. Organizational Savvy. We can’t change the game without understanding the internal, as well as the external, playing field.
MD In some ways you are a client and some ways your division is a vendor supporting your internal brands and clients. How does your team handle the different situations?
RL We are never a “vendor.” We are experts and a partner to every single department of our organization who shares passion for our brands and our customers. It is true that there are situations in which internal clients haven’t learned to think of us this way, but those situations are now few and far between. How do we handle tough times? By building important, strong coalitions of supporters throughout the organization, through confidence that our moral compass is pointed true north, and by leading by example.

Regina thank you so much for your insight. Clearly you have given everyone who reads this a different perspective and a number of things to think about.

Feel free to post your comments and questions for Regina.

We look forward to hearing from you.

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