CMI Senior Manager talks about creating the Midea Insiders Community and the growing importance of consumer insights to businesses


When Adrienne Bresnahan joined Midea, she brought with her 25 years of experience at AT&T where she ran the mobility customer survey program and worked in a variety of areas including quality assurance and customer experience improvement. It was that experience that led to her taking on the role in Midea America as Senior Manager of Consumer and Market Insights (CMI).

What stood out to Adrienne was that from day one at Midea she was entrusted to handle big projects. “When I came in, I immediately took on major projects such as brand tracking and an entire program of IoT research. It was challenging, but it was great to be shown that trust and confidence,” she explains.

The biggest of these projects was to create and manage the Midea Insiders Community. "Survey panels are a known quantity in market research, but what we have is called a branded panel community. It's a central place for research and also encourages brand advocacy among consumers."


Building a panel community that can contribute value to the business involves a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes. “We try to balance the Midea Insiders Community in proportion to the number of people in the US Census by state, age, income, and gender,” explains Adrienne, “While it is important to get the representation of the average customer, we are also looking for qualitative feedback where we get rich insights about how people feel about their appliances. So we do an articulation test where we ask open-ended questions to see who is willing to put in the effort to give us detailed and insightful answers."


Asking the right questions is just as important as having the right people. "When selecting members for the Midea Insiders Community, we have criteria to determine who will be an ideal respondent. We don't necessarily ask them, "Do you use appliances a lot" but we do ask them about interests relating to the house and home. For example, if someone cooks a lot and enjoys having friends and family over, that tends to indicate high use of appliances. Once you have selected the community members, you need to know how to ask questions that aren't leading and won't bias them. People are highly influenced by the manner in which information is presented in a survey, and you must be very careful about every word you say. You can't just ask, "Don't you think this is a good appliance?"


Adrienne and her team also need to ensure that those in the panel community are responding properly. "We have to watch for respondents who may be "gaming" the surveys just to get paid. We use statistics to identify and flag random patterns of responses and then we manually review them. We'll also look at the open-ended responses to see if people are actually answering the questions in a well-considered manner. For example, we'll ask about brands they know and include a made-up brand name. If they select the fake brand name, that's a clue that they may not be paying full attention. In the past, we had to look for chatbots that answered surveys but now we even see use of Chat GPT to answer questions! So part of survey management is staying knowledgeable about how technology not only improves our processes but can interfere with the validity of our results. A lot of behind-the-scenes work goes into ensuring we provide accurate and actionable insights for the business.”


All the time and effort that Adrienne spent creating the Midea Insiders Community has already begun to pay dividends with the panel community being involved in over 20 of projects alone in 2023.

Adrienne has also been helping to run some co-creation workshops that have proven hugely successful. “At the same time, we asked our employees similar questions to gauge what is technologically feasible and what would need to be set aside for long-term innovation development. We put the ideas together in a test with over 1,000 respondents. The ideas that received the highest share of preference in the test actually came from the Midea Insiders Community. It goes to show the power of the voice of the customer, and why you have to have regular people involved.”


With the success of the Midea’s Insiders Community, it’s no surprise then that their services are in high demand. “These days the CMI team works with every product category and we also work across different teams such as e-commerce, marketing, and with leadership,” says Adrienne, “It can be challenging juggling all the requests but it’s also fascinating to be involved in so many areas of the business and to see some of the insights we are getting.”


As the Midea’s Insiders Community goes from strength to strength and CMI becomes increasingly important to the business, Adrienne and the team become more and more able to move to what Adrienne describes as ‘proactive’ research.


“We want to be proactive with our research. You want to talk to customers when you don’t have a specific innovation you’re researching because a lot of things contribute to consumers needs and those things can change over time. You may just ask them to see how they use their refrigerator and maybe just watch and make connections with what they seem to be struggling with and then you start doing research on how to address those pain points. For CMI, the real goal is to uncover what we cannot read in an online review. It’s about discovering problems that the customers are not even thinking about, those “unexpressed needs”. That’s the kind of work that is really exciting.”


It’s really a great time to be involved in consumer insights and Adrienne would recommend joining the CMI team at Midea for anyone considering getting into this field. “I think it’s really interesting working in the home appliances space because you’re not just thinking of the product itself. The product contributes to how people really live their daily life with their families. So, there’s a real personal connection with these appliances that you might not see at first glance. By improving our appliances, we can improve people’s lives. And it’s great to be part of that work.”