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Lynda Resnick on Business and New Media

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Question:\r\nHow important is research in business?

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Lynda\r\nResnick:            Research\r\nhas been so key to me, my whole working life.  What we use to pay for research and the time we would wait\r\nto get the answers, by the time a research study came back tens of thousands of\r\ndollars later, you’d move on almost. \r\nIt used to take forever.  I\r\nwould say that we must have a couple of research projects going every week at\r\none of our different companies. \r\nResearch is free today compared to what it used to be. 

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And\r\nif you have a website and you know who your market is, then you can research\r\nthem, you can make them part of your new product development, you can take care\r\nof them as your ambassadors.  We do\r\na lot of that.  But if you don’t,\r\nif you’re just starting out in business; you know about Zoomerang.com?  For $20 a month, you can do endless\r\nresearch on that site with your demographic group, the age group, the level of\r\neducation, and so forth.  You can\r\nask all kinds of questions to find out if you should market this better\r\nmousetrap that you just invented. 

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So there\r\nis no reason; one of the reasons I was into research so much when I was a kid\r\nis 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\r\nin house research.  But today,\r\nthere’s no reason why everyone can’t do research before they go out and take a\r\nchance.

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Question:\r\nHow has transparency affected your business?

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Lynda\r\nResnick:            The\r\nold idea was that when you’re getting hit over the head in the media, just put\r\nyour head down and wait until it passes. \r\nThat was the conventional wisdom. \r\nWe were attacked by the PETA people because in order to do testing on\r\nhumans for pomegranate juice. And we have spent millions and millions of\r\ndollars with Harvard and UCLA and the Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic and\r\nso forth and so on, all these great universities and scientific centers.  But you go from a test tube, and then\r\nyou do experiments in rats or mice, and then you go to humans.  It’s just part of the scientific\r\nprotocol. 

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And\r\nthey [PETA] came after us.  And\r\nwhat my husband and the legal experts decided to do was to fight it in the\r\ncourts.  Well, 8 months later,\r\nthey--not PETA so much, but the animal activists that are a fringe group--where\r\nparked outside of the houses of my innocent employees with foghorns, screaming\r\nobscenities, calling us murderers. \r\nThere were bomb threats at the building. 

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They\r\nhad gone on the Internet, saying, they had poisoned 500 bottles of juice on the\r\neastern seaboard but they wouldn’t say where.  People were dumping our juice. 

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I\r\nwent into the office one day and my employees who are a happy lot were so\r\ndepressed.  They [the protestors] were\r\nalso outside of my house but it didn’t get to me the way it did if somebody is\r\nright on the curve and your house is right there and they’re whispering in the\r\nwindow at night, we’re going to get your kids. 

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Now,\r\nwe had stopped animal testing 6 months before this.  But I went to my husband and to the legal people and I said,\r\n“I’m taking this over.  You can\r\nfire me if you want to but I’m going to fight this on the Internet. I’m going\r\nback to the people.” 

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And\r\nI wrote a letter to my retailers that I posted online, posted on every blog\r\nthat was talking about it, our own blogs. \r\nWrote to the consumers, told them absolutely the truth about we’d stop\r\ntesting 6 months ago.  We were not\r\ngoing to test juice again.  Why we\r\ndid it; the mice and the rats. \r\nThere was one rabbit study for erectile dysfunction.  You wouldn’t think rabbits would be a\r\ngood choice but be that as it may. \r\n

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And\r\nwithin 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\r\nways to test. 

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Question:\r\nHow do you use social media?

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Lynda\r\nResnick:  I just hired a community media czar for the companies.  Because every group is doing it but I\r\ndon’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\r\ncoupon, 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\r\nunique, if you have ultimate transparency, then you go out and become close to\r\nyour consumer.  Let them help you\r\nbuild the business.  You help them,\r\nthey help you.  The dialogue.  I want to become a part of the fiber of\r\nthe dialogue even more so.  So that\r\nis my next real effort, corporate effort, if you will, across all brands.

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Recorded\r\non: March 17, 2009

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Roll International Co-Chair Lynda Resnick explains how she uses new media to connect with customers.

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