Internship Spotlight: Victoria Bush 23, EME
Victoria Bush ’23
Traineeship: Consumer Insights Intern at GEM
Country/State of Origin: washington d.c.
Preferred gender pronouns: her, her, his
Clubs and membership: Nonprofit Board Members, Startup & Entrepreneurship Club, Discovery Project, Silver Cohort Representative
Favorite SOM teacher: Kai Hao Yang
Favorite restaurant in New Haven: by Archie Moore
Favorite thing in New Haven: East Rock Park
Preferred Yale SOM class: Yale Center for Consumer Insights (YCCI) Discovery Project, Innovator, Workforce
We know we should be eating our veggies, getting more sleep, and exercising, but we still struggle to establish those healthy routines. This is a classic case of the intention-action gap that has been so well documented in behavioral science and decision-making research. Ever since I took a management decision-making course in college, I’ve been fascinated by how we can use “nudges” to improve our behavior, especially behaviors related to health. Behavioral science research can be leveraged on both a small and large scale to make the world a healthier place. Whether it’s something as simple as having a buddy in charge of exercise or changing the architecture of health insurance form choices, the science of decision-making has the power to improve health and quality of life worldwide.
Last spring, I had the incredible opportunity to work with my team on a YCCI discovery project. Our team was asked to identify how our client could make their product more interesting for a younger demographic. We conducted on-the-ground interviews and ultimately came up with practical recommendations on how the client could improve both their infrastructure and messaging to better cater to younger generations.
For my internship, I was hoping to gain experience in consumer insights, ideally in the area of health and wellness. So I felt very lucky to work at GEM last summer. GEM is a true food vitamin company that believes in the idea that food is medicine. GEM founder Sara Cullen started the company with the idea that the best nutrition comes from real food, not the distilled synthetic versions of vitamins and minerals you find in drugstores. GEM makes a vitamin that feels like a bite of energy and is made with nutrient-dense whole food ingredients like turmeric, seaweed, and chia seeds. Because these foods are in their natural form, they are more easily absorbed by our bodies.
During the interview process, I shared my discovery project experience with the founder of the company and was asked to lead a similar project. I felt so grateful that YCCI gave me the tools to conduct such in-depth investigation as I adapted the structure my team used for our discovery project to generate actionable insights and recommendations for GEM.
I started by conducting an online ethnography. I reviewed GEM’s social media and sorted through tweets and Facebook posts about GEM, its competitors, and the vitamin and supplement industry more generally. I started to see patterns and trends in how people talked about vitamins and supplements. I used the YCCI Belief-Goal-Choice framework to organize my research, ideas, and recommendations. I then conducted over 25 interviews with GEM clients about their wellness routines, health attitudes and goals, and their experience with GEM. I referenced our Discovery Project conference to conduct my own insight generation session and distilled all of the consumer data I had gathered into the final recommendations for GEM. These recommendations ranged from easy-to-implement short-term messaging changes to longer-term structural changes.
From our discovery project, I remembered Professor Nathan Novemsky saying that the most interesting insights about consumers are found in contradictions. Looking at GEM’s social media, I noticed a lot of their posts were about how the vitamin bites taste. This was in response to the negative taste reviews. Personally, I like the taste of GEM bites, but I recognize that they taste “healthy”, which is not for everyone. In interviews, however, people barely talked about the taste. They talked about the nutritional value of the bites and how they had all that renewed energy since they started taking GEM. They explained that their hair was no longer falling out as much and their blood tests had stopped showing vitamin deficiencies. People clearly cared more about getting their nutrients than taste. One person even went so far as to say, “Honestly, if you can make the bites even healthier, I’d love it to taste like weed.”
This contradiction between GEM’s messages about taste and the importance customers place on nutrition seemed like the perfect opportunity for an insight intervention. I recommended that instead of fighting the negative taste reviews, GEM look into the taste of their bites. I suggested posts that prioritized nutrition over taste. Looking into the taste also provides an opportunity to poke fun at the negative taste reviews. I suggested a message like, “If you want a brownie, get a brownie.” If you want a nutrient-dense bite, grab your GEM.
I’ve had so much fun talking with GEM customers, and it was so exciting to see GEM already implementing some of my messaging recommendations in their Instagram posts and stories. I felt so equipped to approach this project with the tools YCCI and the Discovery Project gave me, and I look forward to applying this structure and way of thinking to other projects in the future!