Welcome to Daring To, a podcast that finds out how CEOs and entrepreneurs navigate today’s business world – the conventions they’re breaking, the challenges they’ve faced and the decisions that they’ve made, and lastly, just what makes them different.
Shazia Ginai is the CEO of Neuro-Insight in the UK, managing the growth of the business and overseeing projects across a range of media and industries.
A creative and curious insight and marketing professional with a passion for people and leading insight to action.
She has a track record of successfully building and leading insight capability and embedding this into organizations to drive action across multiple markets and functions.
Connect with Shazia on LinkedIn.
Intro: [00:00:02] Welcome to Daring To, a podcast that finds out how CEOs and entrepreneurs navigate today’s business world, the conventions they’re breaking, the challenges they face, and the decisions that they’ve made. And lastly, just what makes them different?
Rita Trehan: [00:00:19] Well, if you’re sitting at home this afternoon and you are wondering what to do, I’m glad you’ve tuned into today’s podcast because joining me today, we may be touching on the coronavirus, but maybe not in a way that you’ve heard before, so do listen in. And joining me is Shazia Ginai, and she’s the CEO of Neuro-Insight. Shazia, you have a background that’s in marketing but we’re going to talk about marketing from a very different perspective. Highly acclaimed, and I’m also honored to be interviewing you because you are also passionate about a particular charity in the UK, which I also have experienced myself around endometriosis. So, it haunts me to see that there are all women out there that speak about it because it is a condition that affects many, many women around the world. And as somebody that had suffered from it in the past, it was heartwarming and kind of put me in my place that maybe I should have been doing more in those days to sort of spread the news.
Rita Trehan: [00:01:18] But let’s move on because let’s talk about a really important topic, which is what neuroscience is about. I mean, your career has been in marketing. You’ve worked for some of the big players in the industry, P&G and others, obviously. But you became CEO about a year ago. So, we’re going to talk about that journey in a little bit. But I want to start off with what you guys actually do, which I am really curious about. You use a phrase about bringing the subconscious to the conscious and neuromarketing. Now, I know I’ve been around the block a bit, right? I’ve heard of neuroscience, but neuromarketing, is that just a buzzword?
Shazia Ginai: [00:01:57] I get asked that quite a lot.
Rita Trehan: [00:01:58] Do you?
Shazia Ginai: [00:01:58] Thank you so much for having me. First, to everyone listening, I hope you’re all safe and well in this real moment in human history. And hopefully, we can sort of change the subject of it by talking about neuroscience and neuromarketing. But yeah, it’s a fascinating space. It’s a space that’s kind of come about, I’d say come to life maybe over the last decade or so. And I mean, I got in to this through a series of accidents, and curiosity, and passion. But neuromarketing is just that level-up of understanding the human truth. We talk about making the subconscious conscious because what we’re actually doing is we’re tapping into the seed of all of our decision making, which is the brain. There are many, many research techniques that exist out there in the marketing space, lots of qualitative/quantitative research techniques.
Shazia Ginai: [00:02:50] And then, you move into the space of biometrics where you have things like eye tracking and facial coding, and they allow you to understand physiological responses to things that are happening to people. But actually, the seed of all of it is in the brain. And that’s what neuromarketing is about. It’s about understanding your subconscious mind and getting real insight. So, the business that I run is called Neuro-Insight. And we have a proprietary technology called Steady State Topography or SST for short because as you said, I’m an ex-P&G, which means I love an acronym. And SST is an amazing tech that was created by a neuroscience professor. So, it is rooted very much in the science, but we’ve brought it to the commercial world in order to allow us to generate kind of insights for the marketing space.
Rita Trehan: [00:03:42] And tell us a little bit about that because in the world, where, today, we are crowded with competitors, where companies are struggling to figure out how to differentiate themselves, technology is changing how business is done in so many different levels. As an individual, we have access to so much information and we are so, I think, attuned now to both information and for personalization. We want things the way we want them and how we want them. And you guys have an interesting take on how you’re using SST to sort of look at that in helping companies to really figure out how to connect to consumers like yourself, like me and you. When we look at, do we buy something, don’t we buy something, we’re seeing—I can recall a couple of years ago when the Volkswagen issue hit, their brand reputation, which is people love them and looked at their marketing because they’re a company you could trust. And then, crash and burn, they have an emissions issue and nobody wants to buy their product anymore. Nobody wants to drive a Volkswagen car. But how does SST work? I mean, what does it actually do?
Shazia Ginai: [00:04:48] So, SST measures electrical activity in the brain. So, our brains are incredibly busy. And you gave a really interesting example of that because you recalled something that clearly was encoded into your memory. And that’s kind of key to what we look at. Now, with measuring electrical activity in the brain, there are all other things that people do, sometimes, use some things like EEG. The way SST works, which is different is people wear headsets, they’ve got a cap on their heads with little sensors on them. And those little felt sensors, they are kind of spaced on your brain in various positions.
Shazia Ginai: [00:05:25] Now, our brains are really specialized, so the way it works is different areas of the brain are responsible for different cognitive functions. And we, by using SST, can measure the activity in those different regions of the brain. But they also do wear a visor. This is what makes SST so unique. So, they were a visor, which you can see straight through, but there’s a flickering light in the periphery of the vision that sends a stimulus signal in the brain. And we track the electrical activity of all those different regions versus that signal. So, you strip away all the noise because our brains are very noisy. They have a lot going on. They work at lots of different frequencies, which is why SST is a really robust way because of that stimulus signal to allow us to measure what’s going on.
Shazia Ginai: [00:06:09] And as I said, your example, you recalled something which was embedded in memory. Now, with SST, for marketers or brands are trying to get their message across and trying to sell some magic and a dream to their consumers. What’s really critical is that that brand, and that call to action, and that message is encoded into their memory but for the long term. So, that’s what we’re measuring. It’s one of the things that we’re measuring. We’re measuring what goes into your memory center. We look at that both from the left and right side of the brain.
Shazia Ginai: [00:06:45] So, our left brain is where our speech capability develops. So, it’s where we process a lot of our very granular, detailed information, those detailed words and phrases. And then, the right side is responsible for processing that more bigger picture overall feel of something, holistic processing. And what we know from the academic work that’s been done is that memory, long-term memory, it correlates to future decision-making, action and behavior change. So, it’s really important for brands to understand what goes in.
Shazia Ginai: [00:07:19] Now, there are ways you can do kind of qualitative research or quantitative where you’re asking people questions, but we’re reliant then on a human being’s ability to articulate what they think and feel. And we’re kind of limited from that point of view. About 90% of our decisions are made in our subconscious, so powerful.
Rita Trehan: [00:07:39] Okay. I saw that. I saw that, like 95% of our decisions are made by the subconscious. I’m like, I’m going to take that fight, I’m going to take that home to my husband and say, “When I’m making a decision, don’t—when you want to make a decision, you say it’s based on fact. I, now, have some proof that actually it’s not. So, don’t try and pull that one over me.” But that just blew me away. That blew me away.
Shazia Ginai: [00:08:00] Yeah. It’s so fascinating because there’s so much stuff going on in there that we don’t even know. And equally, we aren’t able to know or able to articulate. And so, being able to measure the subconscious gives a layer of insight. You just can’t get it out of the way. Now, also, it’s great knowing what goes into your memory. That’s super important. So, what every good researcher is looking for the so what, the why behind everything. So, we also look at areas of the brain that are responsible for emotion. So, certain emotional responses that we have. And that’s also a big part of what we do. And by measuring all of those areas, we are able to build a really true picture of how somebody feels and thinks about something. We can quantify it. Quantifying emotion seems like a slightly out-there concept, but this is what this technology allows us to do.
Rita Trehan: [00:08:52] Now, I read that you guys were involved in the Super Bowl in 2019. And living in the US right now, obviously, like the Super Bowl resonates to a lot of my readers. But you guys were responsible in helping some of the companies. I think it’s either seven or nine of the companies out of the 55 put together their adverts as a company sort of like trying to appeal and connect to those adverts to come on float, which is what we really watch the Super Bowl for. At least, that’s what I watch the Super Bowl for. Don’t tell everybody else, but that’s what I watch it for, for those adverts because they are. And like now, you’re making me think of like what’s encoded in my brain. And I always remember the e-trade adverts from a few years back where they have had the little kid that would be like making deals and stuff like that. That was obviously, as you call it now, encoded in my brain.
Rita Trehan: [00:09:38] But how do you get companies to sort of buy into this idea of neuro? Because like we’ve been out doing marketing for years, right? And most people are like, let’s go get a focus group together. Let’s go ask people what they think. Let’s like do little surveys at the end. This is kind of where like people goes, “This is a bit like fuzzy. This is a bit like ‘Wah.” This is a bit too much for us.” So, how are you convincing companies that this is real, this brings about results?
Shazia Ginai: [00:10:11] Yeah. I mean, that’s a great question. I, myself, was client side for a long time. So, I spent 12 years client side probably back at P&G. And then, I was working a hair styling brand after that.
Rita Trehan: [00:10:23] And it’s a very well-known hair styling brand.
Shazia Ginai: [00:10:25] Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Rita Trehan: [00:10:26] [Crosstalk]. We love them, yeah.
Shazia Ginai: [00:10:28] Yeah, yeah, they’re great. Still have some of those, very brand loyal. But the thing that I found being both client and agency side is marketers have been asking the same questions for many, many years, right? And there’s a reason that they are still asking those questions. It’s because those methodologies that exist, whilst they definitely have their place, they are not giving enough of an answer. And the reason is going back to that stat, so much about decision making happens in the subconscious. If you can’t tap into it, you can’t get the answers that you need.
Shazia Ginai: [00:11:00] And I think that, now, we’re in an interesting space because people are becoming a lot more open to innovation, but they are also still quite risk-averse. And we’re at a tipping point where a lot of businesses are looking to do something a little bit wacky, do something a bit more kind of forward-thinking, but at the same time, they like to wrap themselves in a safety blanket or can I have that consumer debate that I can go to my key stakeholders with, or can I have about one statistic that’s a percentage that’s really easily digestible? And they’re seeing that there’s value in thinking outside. So, a lot of the conversations that I have, I’ll often just talk to my clients about why is it that the questions have not been answered? And the reason is because there’s no way of answering them unless you tap into the subconscious.
Rita Trehan: [00:11:55] It’s a fascinating application that is like as you were talking and I think about the applications that that could have beyond sort of like the consumer area that I’m smiling as you were saying, why is it that marketers have been asking the same questions for the last X number of years, and they’re getting the same result. I say the same thing around when I talk to CEOs around talent and talent development. It’s like, why is it? It’s like number three or like it’s in the top three of CEO concerns every year. And yet, as functions like HR and as leadership, we have not solved that issue because we’re using the same staff that we’ve always used, and we know it doesn’t work, but we still keep doing it, right? So-
Shazia Ginai: [00:12:35] Yeah, that was a really fascinating space. I mean, there’s hundreds of psychometric tests that can help us to segment people. There are lots of training programs that exist when it comes to people. I mean, the people side of my job is actually my favorite part of my job. I’ve always really enjoyed that. And also, the work that I did with endometriosis with UK, it’s about understanding and enabling humans to grow and thrive. And so, I mean, I could talk about that for days. Just yeah, it’s fun for me [crosstalk]-
Rita Trehan: [00:13:03] Do you think that you could apply then? Do you see what you’re doing in the marketing space as a company, as a CEO, do you see that being applicable across other areas? I mean, obviously, we’re tapping into the subconscious, which is basically, really, the conscious. It is actually really the conscious, right, if it’s 95% of our decisions are coming from that to some extent?
Shazia Ginai: [00:13:28] Yeah. So, absolutely, I definitely think it fits in with other areas. I mean, where we’re applying at the moment is in a very commercial space that we look at brand appetizing, we look at shopper journey, we look at context effects of different types of media, but there is a lot more room for this space to grow, particularly SST to have a role to play in this arena. I mean, we have sort of specific things around the sample sizes that we use. So, we tend to do a lot less B2B work. We tend to work with more B2C brands. But I mean, that’s something as a business that we are looking into because I mean, I for one think it would be incredible if we could help to improve working relationships and anything in the space of training and talent by using this kind of insight. I mean, it would just be so powerful.
Rita Trehan: [00:14:20] I’ve got goose bumps as you’re talking about it, making me think about where that could go. I really have. So, let’s look at the flip side, right? So, here I am a listener listening to this going like, for those of us that are kind of like intrigued by all of this and think it’s fascinating, and we’re going like, “Wow, we want to hear more.” But then the other side, let’s play the other side a little bit. There are people there sitting there like, how dare you think about like trying to get into my brain? Like, is my space not my privacy, my space, my data, now already like shared enough around the world that we live in today? How do you counteract that argument? Because it’s a tough one.
Shazia Ginai: [00:15:00] Yeah, it is a tough one. But ultimately, I think the key to everything is consent and in every way. And I think that where there’s been a lot of discussion around people’s data and what their data is being used for, I think the most critical thing any business can do in this space is be transparent. I mean, we all know what happened with the Cambridge Analytica scandal. And anybody who works in the research space, we know that data is such a powerful commodity and humans can either use it for good or use it for evil.
Shazia Ginai: [00:15:35] So, as a business, in Neuro-Insight, we have an ethical policy. So, there are some categories that we refuse to work with. So, our ethical policy states we don’t work with tobacco, gambling, or kind of payday loans, anything that in its intended usage could cause harm. But when it comes to other lives when people are saying, “Oh, but you’re getting inside my head. You’re using my information to tailor something,” that’s what any kind of research does. If you ask people to fill the survey, if you ask them to come to a focus group, you’re using the words to help develop something.
Shazia Ginai: [00:16:08] And the thing is, most brands, the likes of P&G or Unilever, they’re creating products that change our lives for the better. And they’re the brands that we work with, the ones that are changing lives to improve them. And so, helping them to be able to create the right kind of communication for those products that will help change people’s lives for the better. Arguably, that’s what Maxim has been forever. And this is just another level of getting to the truth behind how you do that.
Rita Trehan: [00:16:38] How quickly do you think it will take off? I mean, we’ve seen the neuroscience field expand. Neuromarketing has expanded. But it hasn’t really taken off that that much yet, right? There are, I think, some of your research or the research of these outlets says that there are sort of projections, I guess. The 2026 or around like a compound, right, to upsell or something like that. So, I mean it looks like it could grow massively. How convinced are you that that’s true, that people will shift away from that known safe environment and actually try to build, I guess, strategies but also connect to people because this is about connection? What I took away from reading about the company and what you guys do, it’s like this is all about connections.
Shazia Ginai: [00:17:30] Yeah. I mean, really, if you’re asking this two months ago, I would have said it’s expanding and it will continue to expand. There will be a soft change. So, the data that exists, people will need soft changes from back into this new world of using neurodata. The outputs are different, so they need to be able to understand how it looks. So, it will happen. It will be slower. I actually think given the way that the world is going right now, when we come out of the back of the COVID-19 situation, the world will have changed. Marketers will be asking questions in a slightly different way. And I think that will actually enhance and also speed up the progress that neuro is making because asking people how they think or feel, I’m not sure that we’re going to get the right answers.
Shazia Ginai: [00:18:16] I remember when I was at P&G, and I also recall a progress about two months ago about sound and music, because we’ve done a lot of work on looking at how humans are very visually dominant but how sound and music can impact our brains. One of the things I’ve always said is that people find it very difficult. In qualitative research, I’ve heard them say the two things that they find difficult to explain their feelings around are smell and music. There are some things that we just can’t explain.
Rita Trehan: [00:18:46] How interesting.
Shazia Ginai: [00:18:46] And coming out of crisis or things that are incredibly emotive, being able to articulate those feelings and being able to articulate why behaviors have changed also, we are all gonna be coming out of this as more values-driven buyers, right? Instructors. And I definitely think that being able to get the answers out of people with the limitations that we have on our ability to explain means that these techniques will become even more critical.
Rita Trehan: [00:19:19] Well, I have to concur with you on that one. I also have a belief that we are going to see differences when the idea of sort of like back to normal is going to look very different. And the winners and the losers from a business perspective of coming out of COVID-19 are going to be those who have really like fallen back on those values, those principles, those purpose, and how they’ve actually handled this sort of situation because I think you’re going to start to—I think it’s going to be very interesting what gets revealed, right, about how companies really operate because we are now operating in ways we’ve never really operated on the scale that we’re operating right now.
Shazia Ginai: [00:19:59] Oh, for sure.
Rita Trehan: [00:19:59] So, you make a point that if I asked you two months ago, you would’ve said one answer. And now, you’re saying another. What do you think that people will change in marketing? What will marketeers and organizations be asking? Because nobody wants to know. I think people are tired of being asked, how are you feeling about this, right, because as you said, it’s kind of a predictive question to respond to?
Shazia Ginai: [00:20:25] I mean, the tricky part is we can only hypothesize right now. I feel like we’re in the middle of something we don’t fully understand. And even sort of in terms of countries, everyone’s kind of going through different stages of the same crisis in terms of how far or how long they’ve been locked down, what that isolation looks like, and also the impact on the economy. But I do think that marketers, they’re not just going to be asking the same old stuff. Things like usage and attitude studies, habits and practices, all those basic fundamentals that make up segmentation models or shopper journey models, understanding kind of sharing the market size of the market, the way that people are actually interacting with brands and products. So, those changes are going to cause people to ask very different questions.
Shazia Ginai: [00:21:18] So, we’ve always had a lot of questions around how do we tell a story. I think that’s one of the main things that marketers talk about, particularly in advertising, like how do we tell the right story? I think that there will be a bigger question around what are the intrinsic values that humans now hold dear? And how do those values now manifest themselves in terms of that interaction and their relationship with the other humans in their world? One of the things that we know in terms of brain response is that our brains are wired to look for stories; that we make meaning of life through these stories because we make sense of the world with these stories, which is like brands. There’s a bit of fun with our brain called the frontal cortex, which actually acts as a human ad blocker. It doesn’t exist when you’re a kid. It’s why you believe in the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus.
Rita Trehan: [00:22:16] Don’t tell me that they don’t exist now. I kind of like [crosstalk] keeping me going in this life long time.
Shazia Ginai: [00:22:25] That bit of the brain that allows us to believe in fairy tales and all those beautiful things. It develops when you’re in your late teens to help you assess risk as an adult. And what happens is it, also, is the bit that is not being sold to and it’s just the bit that just don’t like brands. So, if you have advertising where the brand is shoved in your face right at the start, your brain will tune out. It does not want to be sold to. So, your brain is always looking for stories. That’s how it works.
Shazia Ginai: [00:22:54] Now, what we will see is the way we put narrative together ongoing will change. You talked about the Super Bowl earlier. So, in the US, obviously, it is like the big event with a very long ad breaks, and the extensive advertising, and all that sort of hype around it beforehand. Same as for Christmas, right, in the UK? People are actively waiting-
Rita Trehan: [00:23:16] That famous John Lewis advert.
Shazia Ginai: [00:23:16] … for the John Lewis plays their ads.
Rita Trehan: [00:23:21] Exactly.
Shazia Ginai: [00:23:21] And the reason is because those ads, they are all stories. They are really powerful stories. Now, in this future world that we’re going into, the not-so-distant future, when we come out the back of this, it’s not just going to be about stories, it’s going to be about emotion, as I said. And one of the other things that we’ve done some work, we think also of trade TV advertising in the UK, where we’ve looked at the drivers of creative effectiveness. And one of them, which is so relevant right now, is our brains really love human interaction. And you said the word earlier, it’s about connection. I mean, we walk around on this earth all our lives doing what? We’re looking for love, right?
Rita Trehan: [00:23:21] Yeah.
Shazia Ginai: [00:24:02] We look for human connection and love, whether that’s romantic love, friendship, families, or whatever else. And that is going to heavily play out even more than it ever has when we come out the back of this, where we’re distanced from people, and we can finally be united. But the way it manifests itself will change. And I think that’s where a lot of the questions are going to be coming out from.
Rita Trehan: [00:24:29] Fascinating insight as to how we can see this playing out in the future. I wonder, like there’s a lot of—we’ve seen it in the UK, we’ve seen it here in the US, we’ve seen it in lots of other countries in Europe and around the world of government sort of appealing people stay at home. This is lockdown. This is important. These are the things you need to do and not do. In a sense, they are making advertising pleas, if you like, or marketing pleas to the world at large. If you apply your kind of neuroscience thinking to that, how do you think that they could be appealing or doing something differently or are they doing it okay in terms of what they’re doing? Just curious as to your thoughts on that.
Shazia Ginai: [00:25:10] Yeah, I mean, I think that the messages and the calls to action are really critical. So, they have to come across in the same way you would in any brand ad or anything. I think we’ve seen some different examples from the NHS here and also different examples on certain TV channels. So, one of the TV channels, Comedy Central, they have a little lad that comes on, which is about staying home. The ones that I have seen, the ones I would say would have the most impact from the brain’s point of view are the ones where they’re showing some form of human interaction on people. So, they’ve done some brilliant stuff where they’ve showed like little vignettes or clips of people sort of giving messages from their homes. We’ve seen that the brain responds really well when you have a direct address to the viewer because, then, the brain of the viewer will feel like it’s part of the narrative that it’s being told rather than being removed from it.
Shazia Ginai: [00:26:10] And so, I think in those cases, that works really well, showing people an environment that there is a home for a start because there’s a bit of our brains that we measure, which is we call it the metric engagement or personal relevance. It’s a part of your brain that’s responsible for activating if you see something you relate to. And again, when you show people in that setting what’s familiar and relevant, that will activate the brain. That part of the brain is also something that drives information into memory. So, there’s the correlation analysis around that. So, we know that if you can show something of relevance, it will help drive it into memory. If you make people feel like they’re part of the narrative, that will also drive it into memory. So, those are the examples where I would say it’s more effective than just having some text come up on the screen. Now, understandably for advertisers right now, it’s quite tough shooting an ad of any description.
Rita Trehan: [00:27:05] Yeah, and getting it right, right?.
Shazia Ginai: [00:27:06] Yeah. And I think there’s something really authentic about the ones that show the clips. It’s super authentic because I think everybody is very aware that we’re all in this. It’s not just affecting a social class or a country. We’re all in it. This is bigger than all of us, not just taking the planet back, right?
Rita Trehan: [00:27:30] Yeah, that’s right. Yeah.
Shazia Ginai: [00:27:32] Yeah.
Rita Trehan: [00:27:32] And it’s interesting. You’ve made me think about all of the little videotapes that I’ve been getting, like family sort of like groups that you have and friendship groups. And the ones that I’ve really connected to are the ones that they show people in their own homes kind of doing something lighthearted or trying to sort of like connect to people around what’s happening right now to say, like, “Hey, look, we know this.” It’s like from like a head teacher still doing her own version of, I think, I will survive to like lots of other ones that I’ve seen that have been like very funny. But also, like you say, they kind of bring that emotional connection to that. So, I’m going to pass that message on to my friendship virtual commune group that we have created. We’re testing out whether we could actually live in a commune together when we get old. We’re realizing that maybe we can’t, but that’s it. And that’s on a virtual basis. But like the idea of having that sort of connection I think is important.
Rita Trehan: [00:28:26] I’m going to switch topics a little bit because I have to give a big shout out because you are a fellow female CEO. There are not enough of us in the world.
Shazia Ginai: [00:28:35] It’s very rare.
Rita Trehan: [00:28:37] Right? So, I like to make a big deal about it when we have got one the show because, hopefully, it’s an inspiration to those that are thinking about it or have never considered taking their management careers forward. So, you’re a really interesting character. I like to do my research on my guests, but I can’t find too much about what your background and stuff like that. Normally, I find like one little piece of nugget. And I wonder if that was partly a female trait that we have as women and that we don’t tend to be all out there and say, “Look at me, who I am, and what I am, and all the great things that I do.” And there’s loads of stuff that talk about you giving an opinion, and like you’ve done some great articles and some great stories about neuroscience and also about the passions that you have. But tell us a little bit that you, like your background. Who are you? Tell me a little bit more.
Shazia Ginai: [00:29:31] Yeah, wow!
Rita Trehan: [00:29:31] I’ve got a funny story about you that I can share with my listeners. I’d like to ask you the question.
Shazia Ginai: [00:29:37] Well, I mean, gosh. I mean, there’s not loads out there probably because I was never really one of those people who did a lot of profiling of myself. I mean, I’m riddled with imposter syndrome like so many. So, I just didn’t necessarily see myself as someone who—I mean, I looked up to those people who did that, right? I didn’t see myself necessarily as one of them. So, I mean, I’m 37. I come from quite a traditional Muslim family. My parents are amazing champions of my choices, which is also quite rare culturally. And to be fair, it’s not always that way. I still went against the grain. I was always quite an outspoken child. I’m a middle child. I like to think of myself as a textbook child. And I did a Degree in Pharmaceutical and Cosmetic Science. I got an internship and went to P&G, a massive company.
Rita Trehan: [00:30:41] I see your parents would have loved that. Your parents would have loved that. You would have ticked every box.
Shazia Ginai: [00:30:44] They loved it, yeah.
Rita Trehan: [00:30:44] Coming from an Indian culture, it’s like, “Look, my daughter is educated.”
Shazia Ginai: [00:30:48] Did a Science degree, yeah.
Rita Trehan: [00:30:50] Yeah, right. You’ve made it. Next thing would be to get married. So, let’s talk about that because-
Shazia Ginai: [00:30:54] Exactly. I mean, that’s an interesting bit.
Rita Trehan: [00:30:58] This is a good conversation because it isn’t just about winning. It’s actually like that cultural heritage-
Shazia Ginai: [00:31:02] Cool.
Rita Trehan: [00:31:02] … also plays the part, right?
Shazia Ginai: [00:31:06] Absolutely.
Rita Trehan: [00:31:06] And I can remember like you, probably been about 22, my dad sitting there thinking like, “She’s going to get married now, isn’t she?” And I just looked at him like, “Sorry, did I just walked into here like some sort of like film that I own playing no part in because that’s not happening right now.” So-.
Shazia Ginai: [00:31:22] I mean, yeah, that was exactly it. I was 18, and I went to university, and I’ve got two sisters and a brother. And my brother’s the youngest. And we all went to uni. We’re all educated. My dad is a real advocate of being educated because he’s worked a little of his life, and my grandmother got widowed quite young, and he values a woman being able to take care of herself. My mother is an incredibly spiritual woman who’s incredibly fiery at the same time. She has a real sense of independence. And she’s from Pakistan. She moved here when she was 22, and she had an arranged marriage to my dad, and they’ve been happily married for 40 years, still very much in love.
Shazia Ginai: [00:32:07] But one of the things that was really interesting was after I finished my degree, I didn’t move back home. I went and got my job at P&G, and I moved straight into a rented flat in Surrey. My parents from heart-wretched. And I think it really did go against the grain. There were a lot of people who wondered why I did that. Surely, I should have moved back home. Surely, I can work, but I should be considering marriage. But my parents has always been really supportive of that choice.
Shazia Ginai: [00:32:32] And eventually, I made the brave decision of getting a mortgage. I think at that point, quite a lot of people were wondering if I’d ever get married. My older sister got married. Then, my youngest sister got married. And that’s always quite a funny conversation. And I’d often go to weddings and people from the mosque would say, “Don’t worry, we’re praying for you”-
Rita Trehan: [00:32:53] Yeah, yeah. I can imagine.
Shazia Ginai: [00:32:54] … which is a whole nother situation.
Rita Trehan: [00:32:54] Say, “Thanks every much. I appreciate that.” Yeah.
Shazia Ginai: [00:32:58] But I love my career. I’m really passionate and I’m a very curious person. And I have a lot of hobbies that I enjoy. I do a lot of yoga. And that’s a lot to help me with the endometriosis. So, I still do. I’m quite an active person. I mean, I’m currently in isolation. That has changed things a little. But those sorts of things are really important to me. And yeah, there were a few heated discussions around my choices. But generally, everyone’s been really supportive. And then, last year, when my predecessor handed the reins over, I will never forget the day that she told me because-
Rita Trehan: [00:33:39] How did you find out?
Shazia Ginai: [00:33:39] I stood like a rabbit in headlights. And I knew, she had said one day this will happen, and you just don’t believe it’s a thing.
Rita Trehan: [00:33:50] When you reflected on it, say, 24 hours later, share what was going through your mind, because there are so many people and I think particularly women, they find themselves in that position that they’re like, “Oh, my God. Oh, my God. It’s here.” It’s like, “Ah!”
Shazia Ginai: [00:34:09] I mean, the first thing I thought was, “Am I even capable?” which is an interesting question because I look back at it now and I know in my bones that if I hadn’t have been, no one would have given it to me. I mean, that’s the thing. I think the people who make those choices, they have the experience and expertise to know, and they can tell if you are. But I was like, “Am I even capable?”
Shazia Ginai: [00:34:38] And the second thing actually was to do with my health because I was diagnosed with endometriosis about eleven or twelve years ago. I’ve had a couple of surgeries. And I kept thinking, “What if I get sick? What if I get sick and I have to have another surgery?” Now, my doctors have told me about a year and a half ago that I should have a hysterectomy because I also have an additional condition called adenomyosis. And all I kept thinking was, if I have to go under the knife, I’ll have to have something done, how am I going to be able to juggle based on that? It’s not like someone can just come in and take over for a few weeks while you’re recovering. It’s not the same as having someone in your team just taking care of projects. It’s really different. It feels all consuming.
Shazia Ginai: [00:35:25] And the other thing I kept thinking was, “How the hell am I going to have a personal life?” because I live on my own, I kind of love my life. It’s amazing. But I just thought I’m going to have to really immerse myself in this. I’m quite a reflective person and I do have a lot of conversations with myself. So, I took a beat and really thought about it. But it was interesting because for people who were looking from the outside in, so many people said, “Well, of course, this is going to happen. If anyone was going to do it, it was gonna be you.” And I was in utter shock because I just could not see myself the way that they saw me. And every time I’ve spoken to a man who’s in a similar position, they’ve been very accepting of that sort of feedback. They’ll kind of go, “Oh, okay, cool. Yeah, that’s what everyone thinks. It must be true;” whereas, I think women have an inherent tendency to retreat within themselves.
Rita Trehan: [00:36:28] So, what advice could you give women? You’re what now? Nearly a year into being in the CEO role?
Shazia Ginai: [00:36:32] Yeah.
Rita Trehan: [00:36:33] It’s a year on. So, you reflect back. What have you learned about yourself and about what it’s like to be a CEO? What advice would you give to other women?
Shazia Ginai: [00:36:43] I mean, my advice is accept it. Accept what you are. Embrace it. And there is no harm in allowing yourself to celebrate that. I think women don’t celebrate themselves enough. We’re told not to. I mean, the idea of celebration of oneself is heavily linked to ego. And I think that women aren’t necessarily—they don’t feel that they have the entitlement to do that. And it’s not ego.
Rita Trehan: [00:37:16] No, it’s not.
Shazia Ginai: [00:37:17] We have the right to celebrate because we’ve earned our place in the world whether you’ve given birth to a child, which is quite possibly one of the biggest thing you can do is celebrate becoming a mother. If you are helping a friend with something, celebrate the fact that you have a right to exist in the space that you’re in.
Shazia Ginai: [00:37:37] I think the other thing that I learned was surround yourself with people who will champion you and tell you when you mess it up. I’ve got an amazing, amazing friend of mine who’s a coach, and I used to actually be one of his coaching clients called David McQueen and his wife, Madeline McQueen as well. They both are incredible. And he gave me some great advice. He said, give yourself permission. It’s the simplest thing anyone’s ever said to me and the most powerful. Give yourself permission and allow yourself to say, “I’m great.” He also said find your advisory board. And by that, it was anyone in your life who is worth having on it. So, my two best mates – my mom, David, and another friend of mine – that’s sort of my people that I go to.
Shazia Ginai: [00:38:28] And I don’t ever believe there’s anything wrong with asking for help, but I talk a lot. I’m a big Brené Brown fan, so I love all the things about kind of embracing vulnerability. And it’s relationships, courage, or its actual meaning being courage. And you don’t always have to know what you’re doing. One of the interesting things to me was somebody asked me,”Oh, it must be great being CEO. It must be quite hard.” And I said, “You know what? It’s pretty tough, and I don’t think people talk about that enough. But also, there is nothing that can prepare you for it necessarily, because each person does a version of it themselves.” And I think that’s one-
Rita Trehan: [00:39:10] You have to make it your own, right? You’re right. I mean, it’s a role that actually although the title has existed, the role of any CEO coming to the role is a new role, right? It’s not something done before.
Shazia Ginai: [00:39:21] Yeah. And I think the reason that these perceptions exist around it is because the people who have made the noise about what it’s like to be a CEO or hears the roles of being CEO, they kind of dabble their mistake making, and they’re doing it when they’re quite well established, but no one talks about that first step when you’re first getting there and how you’re learning a bunch of stuff that you wouldn’t necessarily have had to do before because even if you’ve managed large teams and groups, you are peerless all of a sudden. Your peers exist outside of your organization. And people are looking to you to set a vision. And I mean there are things that I enjoy the most actually. I really like the autonomy. And I also like the relationship of being able to ask people who work for me what they really want. I think that’s probably one of the biggest failings, it’s not a dictatorial role. It’s supposed to be about understanding the people who are on the ground are making your business work. What is it that they want and need? And what is it that your clients want and need?
Shazia Ginai: [00:40:30] But yeah, I mean, there’s a lot of richness to it. And anybody who would ask me, could I do this? Would I be able to do it? I’d say, find your people that are gonna help you. Mentors are incredibly important. I feel like we should all have them from the get-go. But you can do it. Like it’s not something that’s impossible. I don’t feel like I went to CEO school and learned of stuff. I kind of developed some thinking and, I believe, an emotional intelligence being quite key to it. But yeah, I don’t feel like it’s impossible for so many who would look at it and think it was.
Rita Trehan: [00:41:10] I find it fascinating that the guest I’d had on the podcast, you reflect the views of one of my other guests, who was a young CEO. Young CEO because I like to think of myself as young, but seasoned is the reality, right? The tack that you guys are taking, which I think is heartening for businesses of the future, it’s to say, hey, look, this is a role that when you get into it, (1), you don’t need to have all the answers. I mean, it’s really refreshing to hear from CEOs. And I’ve heard that from a couple of CEOs on this podcast that come from this view that I think is very different to the view of CEOs in the past. So, I encourage that message to get across more. But also, it’s a lonely role, right? How did it feel to begin with, right? Because like when you first go there, like the people that used to be your colleagues now work for you. How did you deal with that?
Shazia Ginai: [00:42:12] Yeah, that’s an interesting one because I did, I did feel, I think that another thing we’re told from the outside world is that you have to behave in a certain way when you get the role. And that is also, I mean, partly true but also partly crap. And the reason for that is you are, if you’re being promoted within an organization, the people around you will know you as being something else. And all of a sudden, it will shift. What I found was super helpful, and I talked about this, I did a short video for the BBC, they have a program called BBCC: Secrets in the UK, where I talks about transparency, about my illness with my team. And I think this is really critical to when you are making that shift, how you come across your colleagues.
Shazia Ginai: [00:43:01] You are still who you are, right? That’s not changed. You will start to develop in terms of your professional persona. You will also start to develop in terms of what you learn in yourself as we do in every stage of life. But what’s really critical is to not speak to people as though they don’t understand you because we’re all still people. And when I did the BBCC, the Secrets thing, what I was talking about was because endometriosis is a chronic pain condition, and I talk about this very openly, I have to be really clear to my team because I mean, I work all the hours God gives me, and I am incredibly busy all the time.
Rita Trehan: [00:43:41] Okay, I’m sending you some tips. I’m sending you some tips on mental health. You need to beat them.
Shazia Ginai: [00:43:47] That’s true.
Rita Trehan: [00:43:47] I’m very good at giving other people advice. Not necessarily following it myself, but it’s important to keep that balance.
Shazia Ginai: [00:43:55] It is. It’s so important. And when I first started out, I was like constantly on the go. And one of the things that became really apparent was if I wasn’t honest and open about—if I wasn’t managing it myself, firstly, then that would have an impact on my team. But in addition to that, if I wasn’t open and honest, I wouldn’t be able to earn their respect in any way because they would be able to see through it because people are fairly good at that. And so, with particularly one member of my team, she’s the research director, and we’re friends, we’re good friends, and the transition, we had a really open conversation where we talked about the fact that I was, from that point on, going to be her boss. And we talked about how you manage those relationships.
Shazia Ginai: [00:44:45] And I think P&G is a really good training ground for that. And anybody who’s worked at P&G will know, you work in these massive, massive sites, and everyone’s everyone’s mate, everyone’s everyone’s other half. There were lots of marriages there. There were lots of relationships, lots of best friendships, and people start from graduate level, and they stay for years. So, I learned very early in my career how you separate and how you manage relationships and don’t take offense basically. And keep some professionalism, but also have a personal touch. And I think that’s actually a really good way of just building a comfortable team dynamic. And I think that shows in the way the happiness we have in our office. I’d like to think so anyway.
Rita Trehan: [00:45:28] They’re all listening. I hope they are going to be listening to this podcast, and they’ll be saying, “Yeah, we agree. We agree. We definitely agree.” So, tell us a bit more, like just before we kind of wrap up, because do you think like this whole, the newer marketing, what do you see as the future for Neuro-Inisght going forward? I mean, you run the UK operation. It’s an organization that has a significant role to play, I think, in neuromarketing in the future of how we look at consumerism brands, and connecting to people, and how businesses can be sustainable in the future? What do you see some of the future outreaches to that going forward?
Shazia Ginai: [00:46:07] I mean, I definitely think that the only way is up for neuromarketing. It’s starting its growth and it’s only going to grow and get bigger. I think that currently for Neuro-Inishgt specifically, we’ve been working in a certain space. So, we do a lot of advertising research. Over the last few years, that shifted into context-related work. So, in the UK, we published a whitepaper last year, which was all about the impacts of media context because human beings are now being bombarded with information from every kind of medium that exists. We’ve got different platforms and channels, but we’ve also got different devices. We’re also on the go. We’ve got podcasts in our areas with all sorts of stuff going on. So, context became a big part of the conversation over the last couple of years.
Shazia Ginai: [00:46:53] I, now, think that in terms of the technology and the way it will move, we’ll get to a point where we can really scale this up in a way that we’ve not seen. And I know as a business, that’s something that we all are definitely looking into. We’re really into a kind of team of neuroscientists based in Australia as part of the group business, and they’re working on some really cool stuff on the tech side. I think in general, for us, we’re going to be moving to larger areas of insight. So, we’re already doing some work on understanding shopper behavior, but there’ll be even more than that because just advertising research isn’t enough. I think it will be helped to very front end design and innovation projects, understanding what the needs are at a much, much earlier stage. That’s something that a lot of businesses do well in terms of disruptive innovation. And I was lucky to work on a couple of those projects myself in the past, client side, but that’s something I think neuroscience can add so much value to.
Rita Trehan: [00:47:56] It must be huge opportunities in the online space, I would imagine for you guys, right?
Shazia Ginai: [00:47:56] Yeah. So, I mean, we do some great work looking at social media, but I think the e-commerce site is a place where we’re going to develop quite heavily. I think that, currently, the COVID-19 situation has meant that people are doing everything online. And literally, they’re not just shopping online, they’re also working out online. They’re having conversations online. They’re doing classes and lessons and everything. And I do think that neuromarketing, it will just expand in terms of its reach to different areas and that growth is going to be absolutely enormous.
Shazia Ginai: [00:47:56] I feel really lucky, actually, because there are other businesses and other research companies that use techniques like EEG, which is a good technique, but as somebody who was client side, I mean, I was quite picky about my agencies. And I always said I’d never go agency side. The only reason I would do it is if it was someone I would’ve hired myself when I was a client or if it was something that completely changed my life. And I feel like the SST technology does that, I mean, in a way that I can’t even articulate. You’d have to read my minds to know exactly how I feel.
Rita Trehan: [00:49:12] Well, you never know, we might have you put it on and we’ll be able to see, right? Look, I’m not sure that having my subconscious be that conscious is good for anybody, particularly when they’re locked down at home right now. But that being said, I do think there are fascinating applications for it, as I said, like when I was thinking about some of the places that you could play in a much more sort of broader organizational context around culture [crosstalk].
Shazia Ginai: [00:49:38] Oh, yeah.
Rita Trehan: [00:49:39] That may be a conversation we have you on talk about another time because it’s an area that I think would be highly interesting to explore. But I always ask my guests their daring to. What’s their daring to? Because this is about people that dare ,to either be somebody, do something, think something, or just be different. What’s your daring to do you think if you look back on your life? Whether it’s like work-related, person-related, what’s your daring-to moment?
Shazia Ginai: [00:50:13] I mean, oh, God, there’s been quite a few. I think, one of the big moments for me was a very personal moment. And actually it all happened at the same time last year in March, I got told I was becoming CEO. At the same time, I had just publicly, after a decade, had opened up and talked about endometriosis. And Rankin, the amazing photographer, I was lucky enough to have him shoot my portrait for an exhibition that was done on invisible illnesses.
Rita Trehan: [00:50:50] It’s beautiful. I’ve looked it up. Yeah, it’s beautiful.
Shazia Ginai: [00:50:50] I found that the most difficult thing I have ever done. It was so challenging because I was putting myself in a very vulnerable and open position. I also had a headscarf/no headscarf debacle over that from a cultural point of view. And I think what I really dared to do, it was a really brave moment because I hadn’t talks about endometriosis because it impacts fertility and culturally being known as being someone who may have fertility issues who’s unmarried and in her 30s was not something I wanted to be associated with. And I just had my mouth shut for a long time. And I think being brave and daring to open myself up like that and talk about it. And I feel like, hopefully, that has paved the way for others to do the same, and I will not stop talking about it. I think it’s so important for us to find a cure. But I think that happened coinciding with the moment when I got told I was going to be a CEO. They were too kind of cultural taboos, but I guess I had no idea prior to that that I’d be breaking during that year. So, I mean, ’19 was certainly kind of epic for me.
Rita Trehan: [00:52:10] Well, you know what? That has to be one of the best daring to shares that we’ve had. And that’s no disrespect to any of my other guests that had been on the show, but I think you will have open the windows of light to many, many listeners, and that can relate in their own way, whether it’s culturally or from just a perspective around if you to think something or feel like something different, how you’ve opened the window of light in how you’ve described that. So, hats off, really, I guess I would say. Thank you so much for sharing that. I think-
Shazia Ginai: [00:52:49] Thank you.
Rita Trehan: [00:52:51] Yeah. You’ve like hit that emotional intensity button in my encoded subconscious, I think, there. So, yeah. I really appreciate it. Now, I will say, my other piece of advice is, as you said, get out there, be visible, be who you are, be proud of it. So, let’s see more of you on social media and your brand. Let’s get it out there. But if people do you want to know more about you, get in contact with Neuro-Insight, what’s the best way to reach you? Website? LinkedIn?
Shazia Ginai: [00:53:21] Yeah. Our website is great. You can find me on LinkedIn. So, Shazia Ginai, just look me up. But the website’s great. It has all the information and a place to contact the team.
Rita Trehan: [00:53:34] Well, cool, cool episode today. Fellow woman, sister, call it what you want, like we band together. And then, guys, we expect you to contribute too listeners. Like we’re in this together. It’s not just COVID-19. We are in this together to help change the businesses for the future, and to be more inclusive, and to really live and show what we can bring to the world and solve some of the big problems. So, thank you very much. If you want to get ah old of me, you’ll know where to get me, but I am on Twitter @rita_trehan, and you can find out more about us.
Rita Trehan: [00:54:05] Thanks for listening. Enjoyed the conversation? Make sure you subscribe, so you don’t miss out on future episodes of Daring To. Also, check out our website, dareworldwide.com, for some great resources around business in general, leadership, and how to bring about change. See you next time.