October 30, 2019

Kristin Youngling: Designing with data at Ogilvy

Kristin Youngling

Kristin Youngling

Senior Director of Data Strategy, Ogilvy

Kristin Youngling is the Senior Director of Data Strategy at Ogilvy. Before that, she’s worked at Effective Inc. and BrightLine. She graduated from Boston University in 2009 with a BA in Economics and International Relations. This interview is from a series of interviews done at Service Design Week in 2018.

Eli Woolery: Kristin Youngling, Senior Director of Data Strategy at Ogilvy. Welcome to Conversations.

Kristin: Thanks for having me.

Eli: What is a day in the life of the data strategy team at Ogilvy look like?

Kristin: It’s incredibly varied. We typically spend probably about 70% of our day working directly with clients across different industries and really helping them understand, based on the data that they have, what is valuable and how should they be leveraging it to support experience design, product initiatives, as well as service design initiatives. 

And then I’d say the other portion of our time is really spent just trying to evangelize our practice within the broader Ogilvy organization as we look to really expand our digital footprint.

Eli: At Ogilvy, how do data and user research intersect? For a lot of the companies that we talk to, data provides the what, and user research provides the why. Is that similar to how things operate there? Is there any other nuance you can add?

Kristin: That’s actually one of our key differentiators: our focus on bringing qualitative and quantitative data together. We believe that data’s critical to the design process, and you can just get such a more complete and holistic picture and a more actionable understanding of your customers if you’re leveraging both qualitative and quantitative inputs. 

We look across essentially every available data source, whether it be diary studies or more traditional qualitative interviews all the way on the other side of the spectrum around the quantitative side like web analytics or point-of-sale data, segmentation data, things like that.

Eli: Today, you led a group discussion at Service Design Week around techniques for leveraging that data to drive smarter experience design. You had an interesting demonstration of a customer journey map that had data overlaid on it. Could you talk a little bit about that? How you use that type of journey mapping?

Kristin:  I think in the experience design field, customer journey mapping is a critical output. It’s a tool that has been leveraged for many, many years. We’ve taken a little bit of a unique approach to it in that we still believe firmly in the power of the qualitative in mapping out the narrative and understanding the key customer pain points and their mental models throughout the entire customer journey. We really focus in on where are they make decisions and where we are most able to influence them. Our approach rests on that, but then layers on additional quantitative data.

From our experience, there’s so much quantitative data that is being produced every single second. Every single time we like an Instagram post or we share a Facebook post or we send an email or a Slack message, that’s quantitative data that is being generated. For us, we really look to harness that data. What we’ve done is taken this qualitative and quantitative approach to journey maps where we try to take all available information and visualize it then in a way that is actionable for design teams and product teams. 

It’s a new spin on the traditional qualitative-based journey map that layers on the quantitative data. It allows us to not only understand the customer’s state of mind and really focus in on those key opportunities, but also allows us to size those opportunities and then prioritize them from both a customer and a business perspective.

Eli: By presenting this data in a way that’s both qualitative (so there’s a story and an emotional component) and quantitative (which will satisfy people that are a little more interested in the numbers and driving business) you can create the best of both worlds for people.

Kristin: Yeah, absolutely. We’ve found it to be an incredibly powerful tool when it comes to just gaining alignment or driving consensus. Everyone’s coming at a problem from a different angle or a different perspective. We need to be able to actually show or demonstrate potential value with the quantitative data while also humanizing it with the qualitative data. It’s an incredibly valuable tool for just aligning people around what are the priority issues that we need to start solving, and then how do we do that.

Eli: One other thing that you said in your introduction today was that you help measure the impact of design. What are some of the ways that you go about doing that?

Kristin: That’s a great question. It’s really interesting because I think, as someone who has a data and analytics background, working in a creative field is fun. There’s this traditional left brain, right brain thinking where oftentimes people on either side are afraid to bring the two together. But in our experience, there is incredible value in being able to quantify the impact of design solutions or design investments quite frankly.

At Ogilvy, one of the ways that at we do that is we have this what we call a measurable human-centered approach to design. I’m sure human-centered design is something that you’ve heard very, very regularly. It’s a pretty big buzzword. But the measurable piece is kind of where my role has been focused over the past two years. Our key focus is on ensuring that we can actually quantify the impact of our design solutions, both on the customer but also on the actual business outcomes. Essentially, tying improvements in customer experience back to tangible business outcomes.


We’ve developed this tool called an Experience Measurement Framework, and that’s something that is part of every single one of our engagements. It essentially helps us translate priority business outcomes or goals into user experience optimizations, and then helps us really identify critical success metrics that we can track along the way throughout the iterative design process. We’ll use that to inform user testing throughout an iterative design process. We’ll also use it in certain cases to actually prove out an ROI. We’ve done a few projects where we’ve actually been able to model out what observed improvements in the experience will actually do for some of the key business outcomes around revenue or cost savings.

Eli: A lot of my career I worked at very small startups, and we’d maybe only have users in the thousands or less. It’s hard to get enough data at that point to be very meaningful. Do you have any advice on getting meaningful data with a smaller sample size?

Kristin: I have two pieces of advice. First, thank your lucky stars because as a small startup, you get to start from scratch and you really have a blank canvas. So I would say think strategically early. Think about what questions you’re going to want to answer going forward. How are you gonna be gauging success? How are you gonna gauge failure? And then make sure that you’re setting up your measurement landscape or ecosystem in a way that allows you to do that and allows, more importantly, your broader teams to do that. It’s so important in my experience to give teams visibility and access to data in a way that actually empowers them to use it.

The second part is, if you don’t have any data, that’s okay. Get things in front of your users or your customers early and often. You can create data that way. Even if you’re launching a new product and you don’t have a bunch of existing analytics, that’s okay. Get it in front of users, capture that data, capture that information, both qualitative and quantitative. Structure your testing in a way that allows you to be a little bit objective and subjective. And just do that. Rely on that sort of guerrilla type testing until you can get that solid data foundation in place.

Eli: Are there any mentors that you’ve had over the years that have helped you get to where you are today?

Kristin: I’ve been lucky enough to have several mentors. One of my first bosses, she came from a management consulting background, yet we worked in an interactive ad agency that was really more creative focused or creative lead. That was where I first learned about this idea of bringing both the left side and right side of the brain together. The power and impact that you can have when you marry creative along with this analytical side.

And then the Experience Design team I work with at Ogilvy is incredible. The way that they collaborate with clients and just really foster and promote openness and empower teams and stakeholders. It’s been an incredible experience working with this group.

Eli: Thank you, Kristin, so much for being on the show.

Kristin: Thank you.

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