Question: How important is research in business?
Lynda Resnick: Research has been so key to me, my whole working life. What we use to pay for research and the time we would wait to get the answers, by the time a research study came back tens of thousands of dollars later, you’d move on almost. It used to take forever. I would say that we must have a couple of research projects going every week at one of our different companies. Research is free today compared to what it used to be.
And if you have a website and you know who your market is, then you can research them, you can make them part of your new product development, you can take care of them as your ambassadors. We do a lot of that. But if you don’t, if you’re just starting out in business; you know about Zoomerang.com? For $20 a month, you can do endless research on that site with your demographic group, the age group, the level of education, and so forth. You can ask all kinds of questions to find out if you should market this better mousetrap that you just invented.
So there is no reason; one of the reasons I was into research so much when I was a kid is I use to date a guy that worked at Rand and he was a researcher. So he helped me with my research. And then, as time went on, I developed in house research. But today, there’s no reason why everyone can’t do research before they go out and take a chance.
Question: How has transparency affected your business?
Lynda Resnick: The old idea was that when you’re getting hit over the head in the media, just put your head down and wait until it passes. That was the conventional wisdom. We were attacked by the PETA people because in order to do testing on humans for pomegranate juice. And we have spent millions and millions of dollars with Harvard and UCLA and the Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic and so forth and so on, all these great universities and scientific centers. But you go from a test tube, and then you do experiments in rats or mice, and then you go to humans. It’s just part of the scientific protocol.
And they [PETA] came after us. And what my husband and the legal experts decided to do was to fight it in the courts. Well, 8 months later, they--not PETA so much, but the animal activists that are a fringe group--where parked outside of the houses of my innocent employees with foghorns, screaming obscenities, calling us murderers. There were bomb threats at the building.
They had gone on the Internet, saying, they had poisoned 500 bottles of juice on the eastern seaboard but they wouldn’t say where. People were dumping our juice.
I went into the office one day and my employees who are a happy lot were so depressed. They [the protestors] were also outside of my house but it didn’t get to me the way it did if somebody is right on the curve and your house is right there and they’re whispering in the window at night, we’re going to get your kids.
Now, we had stopped animal testing 6 months before this. But I went to my husband and to the legal people and I said, “I’m taking this over. You can fire me if you want to but I’m going to fight this on the Internet. I’m going back to the people.”
And I wrote a letter to my retailers that I posted online, posted on every blog that was talking about it, our own blogs. Wrote to the consumers, told them absolutely the truth about we’d stop testing 6 months ago. We were not going to test juice again. Why we did it; the mice and the rats. There was one rabbit study for erectile dysfunction. You wouldn’t think rabbits would be a good choice but be that as it may.
And within one day, the animal activists stopped. Two days later, we made a deal with PETA. Now, we work with them. And we give money to the cause to find ways to test.
Question: How do you use social media?
Lynda Resnick: I just hired a community media czar for the companies. Because every group is doing it but I don’t want to reinvent the wheel every time we go out there. And so, I’m so committed to it. It’s not like running an ad with a coupon, you’re going to go and count the money coming in. It’s just not like that. But if you are value based, if you are unique, if you have ultimate transparency, then you go out and become close to your consumer. Let them help you build the business. You help them, they help you. The dialogue. I want to become a part of the fiber of the dialogue even more so. So that is my next real effort, corporate effort, if you will, across all brands.
Recorded on: March 17, 2009