MRA 2014 Corporate Researchers Conference — Dish Network’s Research Culture Shift


The following are notes taken from the session “DISH Network’s Research Culture Shift”, by Patti Fries (DISH Network) at the MRA 2014 Corporate Researchers Conference in Chicago.  This post had limited editing and likely contains typographical and grammatical errors.

A video interview with Patti Fries is below:

Dish vs. Starbucks

  • From a revenue perspective, dish has higher revenue’s than Starbucks ($14.3B vs. $13.3B).
  • From a brand value perspective Starbucks ($10B) vs. Dish ($4.8B)
  • When research asks “If dish were a car what would it be?” Answer is normally “a grey car with four wheels”.

The story of Dish

Five words to describe founder of dish:

  • adventurous
  • competitive
  • risk taker
  • tenacious
  • optimistic


  • Started with the belief that everyone would have a satellite hooked up to their TV
  • Could not afford to launch a satellite in the US, so he launched it in China, in 1995.
  • Had the first customer in 1996.
  • Consumer Research and Brand Insights Launch in 2012

Patti’s words are:  energetic, passionate, ambitious, trusting and optimistic.

The research history:

  • Did use basic research before department started.
  • Went to the DMV to conduct surveys with people.
  • Used Survey Monkey
  • People were working in silos, consumer insight not shared

Category NPS:

  • Health insurance 12
  • Cable/Satellite 14
  • Department/Speciality  Stores 62

The category challenge:  They have no retail space.

Patti would prefer to work at Dish compared to Starbucks, because there are so many things that can be changed at Dish.

Question:  Product was the king, how do you make them care about the customer?

  • The beginning:  do what it takes
  • Two years ago, had no stuff and a very small projects
  • Implemented 72 projects in the first seven months she was there
  • 25,000 people at Dish, and no one knew research existed, so she had to sell research
  • Reached out to people in silos and asked “what can I do?”
  • Seven months later, she was given a 1,000% budget increase
  • Allowed her to build a team of six people.

Develop Vision and Mission

  • Didn’t want to be order takers, wanted to move to objective, simple, strategic and inspiring

Asked who is the prime target?  18+ with a pulse, and targeting all in the same way.

  • Decided to target precision — financial and needs based segmentation
  • If someone stops using Dish after 2 years and always pays on time, Dish loses money – profit only comes after a longer time period
  • Developed a predictive model
  • Data:  less is more

Year Two: Focus on the Top Things That Will Impact the Business

  • Setup a customer panel
  • Actionable Translation of Big Data (previously were not doing anything with viewer information) to create dashboard that was useful for people — can get a one-page answer to a question if necessary, no time for the CEO to go through 200 pages of data
  • Uses six research vendors and makes sure that they understand Dish.  Pushes them to provide data simply.
  • Focus groups:  Many people in organization have never been to one.  Rented out a reality house, had 30 people in at a time, so they can see the voice of the consumer.
  • Introduced CEO of Dish to one of the focus groups, and he talked to them for an hour.
  • Difficulty getting traction:  People at Dish weren’t used to have research internally.  They would setup information sessions and five or ten people would come.
  • Used catchy posters and the 10 people increased to 90.
  • Empower others:  Taught marketers qualitative tools, and had them have conversations with customers in their homes.   It didn’t matter if they did it perfectly or not.  Marketers came back and they had found the process exciting.
  • Make it fun:  Brought Google, FB, AOL and Twitter into their offices.

The Brand:  Make Brave Recommendations:

  • Price focus –commoditization
  • Message Madness — not consistent, 25 different commercials

Brand Awkwardness: Low brand linkage (<25%) with one of the commercials:  cowboy hats, Blockbuster


  • From 2008 to 2012 number of customers flat, Direct TV is growing.
  • New ally — James Morehead — brand marketer of the year, for Old Spice marketing.  Result, brand consistency was greater than 75%.  Hopper awareness went up considerably
  • Strategic Partnerships:  Apple (Hopper) and Southwest (Free Dish TV on flight)
  • Results:  16 industry awards with the Hopper, increased NPS that is above industry norms.  But, awards don’t matter to consumers.
  • Now working on a new brand experience.

The Future:  Win Hearts and Minds:

  • Consumer advocacy is important
  • Create brand feel
  • Build on consumer motivations — more than price and features

Patti’s Playbook

  • Do what it takes
  • Win early and win big
  • Less is more
  • Embrace the fun theory
  • Make brave recos
  • Win hearts and minds of consumers






 The Future:

Drive a new strategy that will ensure the future of a consumer led Dish brand

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