Remember, this too shall pass: This is another “mom” quote that I grew up with. I find comfort in knowing that life is constantly changing with the curve balls and the ups and downs that are thrown at us. But it’s also perfectly predictable, like the seasons. After the winter comes spring. We have to be a student of past winters to fully enjoy the springtime.
As a part of my series about the things we can do to remain hopeful and support each other during anxious times, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lisa W. Miller.
Lisa W. Miller is a senior marketing, strategy and innovation consultant with more than 30 years of experience. Her most recent corporate assignment Vice President of Innovation for Brinker International, parent company of Chili’s, On the Border, Macaroni Grill and Maggiano’s. Prior to that, she was Vice President of Insights at Frito Lay/PepsiCo. She began her consulting practice in 2008 by becoming strategic partners with many well-know and trusted global brands such as Walmart, Applebee’s, IHOP, Kimberly Clark, Frito Lay, La Quinta, 7-Eleven and the American Heart Association.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
At the end of the day, the world doesn’t need more data, we have enough of that! Businesses need insights to get to the “So what? And the now what? That’s where I come in. My craft is the art of storytelling through consumer insights grounded in hard data. My goal line is clear: to make complex data and analysis simple and easy to understand for board of directors and senior executive teams to take action and to drive growth.
The path to get here has been a winding road with a few speed bumps along the way. As a child growing up in Texas, my parents always taught me, “The answer is no, unless you ask.” It’s a life lesson I’ve shared with my own children, yet looking back, that one little statement shaped many facets of my own life including my career. I think it created the fire in my belly and insatiable curiosity to ask a lot of questions, probably much to the chagrin of my parents when I was a kid.
With a marketing degree from Southern Methodist University, I cut my teeth in the business world working for an advertising agency on one the most beloved American icons, the Quaker Oats company. I always knew that I loved math and statistics. Yet, working at an agency, I learned how much I deeply enjoyed understanding consumer needs and wants and the translation of that into a creative advertising expression and stories. I love being in the deep weeds of the data, but what I love even more is finding the story. Those skills were invaluable as I moved to the client side at Frito-Lay/PepsiCo and then Brinker International. In 2008, I took the plunge and started my own business and thirteen years later, I haven’t looked back.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
The book that has inspired me the most is Brene Brown’s The Power Of Vulnerability. Out of the gate, I could relate to her back story — she’s a native Texan, a researcher and a storyteller. As a fellow storyteller, I could identify with the tension in her research learnings — where there is love, there is heartbreak; where there is belonging, there are exclusions and where there are connections, there are disconnections.
Early in the pandemic, my business came to a crashing halt, just as many other business did. My clients were in survival mode trying to just keep the door open. There was no roadmap for operators or marketers. There was so much free data out there to help, but I wasn’t convinced that the right questions were being asked.
My conviction was that the only path forward would be through joy not fear. That is when the spark and the connection back to Brown’s work happened. My thesis was it would be unwinding the tension between joy and fear that would enable consumers the confidence to venture back out. And so it began, the passion project called #JourneyBackToJoy research was born. One year later with 30 waves of research and over 30,000 consumer surveys, we have been tracking the consumer re-entry and how consumers and business will emerge on the other side of this.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
When we are told we can’t do something, it makes us want to do it more. It lights a fire of appreciation for the things that bring us joy while also opening us up to new choices we might not otherwise have considered. These truths have been the catalyst and needed spark for the economic recovery as government restrictions and mandates are being lifted. Joy not fear is the only path forward.
Here are my 5 reasons to be hopeful.
- Unleashing the pent-up demand. We’ve been measuring consumer sentiment for over a year now. It’s been a roller coaster ride, yet our data shows positive momentum building since November with consumer comfort and readiness to venture out again. Currently, about half (49%) of Americans are ready to get out the door to some activities. Some are still taking it a bit slower than others.
- Not going to miss my shot. Americans are raising their hands and rolling up their sleeves to take the Covid-19 vaccine, giving them even more confidence to venture out. 37% of consumers say they will start back immediately shopping at retailers after getting the vaccine, and 31% will dine out.
- Connecting over clicking. Joy is a feeling and an experience not obtained by sitting behind a computer or scrolling on a phone. Online shopping and zoom meeting aren’t going away, yet consumers crave in-person and more emotional connections with friends, family and coworkers. The total sensory experience of sitting in a movie theater or the simple pleasure and adrenaline rush of retail therapy can’t be replicated by just clicking.
- Creating inspiration and innovation from desperation. From painted rocks with inspiring and kind words placed on neighborhood sidewalks to the creation of Ghost Kitchens, when things go off the script, we pivot to meet the challenges.
- Leading with joy, reassuring with safety. Businesses are beginning to focus more on the joyful reasons why consumers fell in love with the brand in the first place, then reassuring us with visible safety measures.
From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
Finding joy is a therapeutic way to overcome fear and anxiety. By definition, joy is an emotion, not just a feeling. It’s a moment in time that makes life worth living. It’s an attitude, not a destination.
- Connect: If you know you have a friend or loved one who has been living alone during the pandemic, make sure to check-up on them regularly even if it’s just for a brief phone call or video call. We are social creatures, and this little gesture can make a massive difference for someone who is experiencing anxiety.
- Assume positive intent: When reaching out to those who might feel anxious, your efforts may not feel welcomed at first. But know that deep down, the person on the other side needs you.
- Find comfort in the familiar: Dig deep to find something that you know brings comfort to that person. The smaller and simpler, the better.
- Try something new together: One of the positives of the pandemic is that many of us have branched out to try new things. We are never too old to learn and grow. When we try something new, we’re typically not good at it. Fumbling our way through it to get better at it can be therapeutic. And as the saying goes, try, try, try again.
- Remember, this too shall pass: This is another “mom” quote that I grew up with. I find comfort in knowing that life is constantly changing with the curve balls and the ups and downs that are thrown at us. But it’s also perfectly predictable, like the seasons. After the winter comes spring. We have to be a student of past winters to fully enjoy the springtime.
What are the best resources you would suggest to a person who is feeling anxious?
It’s important to acknowledge that anxiety is real and that everyone has a different way of coping with stress, loneliness and anxiety. Seeking out a trained professional may be needed in some cases.
I would highly recommend these three videos as a way to lift anyone’s spirit. Each focuses on finding joy, yet through different perspectives.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
I’ll go back to where I started this story with that quote from my parents. “The answer is no, unless you ask.”
While on the surface, this might seem like a selfish life lesson about getting what you want. If that is where you think it stops, you’ve missed the point. There are three key life lessons:
- Before you can even “ask,” you have to identify what the question is. This provides us an opportunity to clarify what we find important whether it be in our personal or professional lives.
- You have to have the “courage” to actually ask the question. This can be hard, but it ultimately can help us find “confidence” in ourselves.
- We learn the tough and valuable lesson that the answer is often “no.” Yet, when we hear it, and we all know it happens a lot, we won’t shrivel up and fade away.
This little life lesson has served me well over the years, as today I make a living framing and asking questions to help businesses understand their consumers and to find growth. Thanks mom and dad! Yet, what’s even more important.. my three kids get it, and I’m very proud of that.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
During this past year, I have candidly become obsessed with spreading the message to focus on “joy not fear” to get to the other side of the pandemic. Our research confirms the healing power of joy. Through these troubled times, we have seen a pervasive theme of gratitude, kindness and courage as humans looked up from their devices and paused from their busy lives to appreciate the simple joys of caring for one another. From the healthcare workers on the front lines, to our closest friends and families, it’s the human connections that make life worth living. While it was founded during the pandemic, my hope is that The Journey Back To Joy becomes a lasting movement. As Brene Brown says, ”Joy comes to us in moments — ordinary moments. We risk missing out on joy when we get too busy chasing down the extraordinary.”
What is the best way for our readers to follow you online?
Your readers can find me on my website and across social media platforms. Join the #JourneyBackToJoy movement by subscribing to my newsletter.
Blog: Journey Back to Joy Blog
Linkedin: Lisa W. Miller Linkedin
YouTube: Lisa W Miller YouTube
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!