Announcing the 2023 Better Why Award Winners!

Recognizing insights leaders and customer advocates who are making a real impact and driving our industry forward.

Check out who the finalists and winners are across the four award categories, plus our Better Why Champion — and read their winning stories and watch the award acceptances below.

The Customer Relationship Award

For insights leaders who truly ‘get’ their customers.

The Customer Relationship Award goes to a project or program that combines insight and relationship design to drive a customer-centric outcome. Check below for this year’s Customer Relationship finalists and Customer Relationship winner, announced daily starting November 1st. 


Securian Financial

Three years post COVID-19, workplace mental wellness is critical given stress, burnout and workforce challenges. Securian Financial sought to understand employee needs and barriers to using mental wellness benefits. They surveyed 2,500 full-time employees, examining generational differences, and created an inspiring video to highlight barriers.

The survey and insights have been mentioned in over 65 publications and have garnered over 2.3 million impressions online, making it Securian Financial’s largest earned media coverage to date. 

As one of our judges said, “it was simply one of the most impactful submissions we’ve read.”


Microsoft faced challenges efficiently staffing technical resources for customer engagements, leading to delays and customer frustration. To address the root cause, they collaborated with Microsoft’s Experience, Strategy and Design Studio (XSD) to co-design a solution.

XSD uncovered underlying challenges through interviews and workshops, resulting in a pilot program that reduced disruptions for field employees and enhanced customer satisfaction. Field employees appreciated being engaged via a co-creation process that allowed for honest dialogue.

“It was a very solid approach to tackling a very difficult business challenge, and great results were achieved by their customer-minded solution and execution,” said one of the judges evaluating the work.


McDonald’s aimed to connect authentically with Gen Z (18-24-year-olds) to enhance cultural relevance in their marketing and product development efforts. Seeking inspiration from MTV’s “The Real World,” McDonald’s created, “Up Close: Gen Z,” an 18-episode web series featuring six different Gen Zers from across the country with a partner agency.

The show involved artists, advocates, and entrepreneurs, who shared their unfiltered views on a wide span of topics like Identity, Family and “The New American Dream.” They uncovered their raw, honest, deep human truths to help McDonald’s really get to know a crucial target customer. The goal was not only to inform and educate, but also entertain and engage McDonald’s employees to better understand their customers.

As one judge put it, “wow, really well done. This is a creative and powerful way to help the team understand this customer group more. The impact was on the employee exposure and their understanding of their customer.”


The Insight Inclusivity Award

For insights leaders leading change for better business.

The Inclusivity Award goes to a project or program that has measurable impact on either organizational (internal) or customer (external) inclusivity practices. Check below for this year’s Inclusivity finalists and Inclusivity winner, announced daily starting November 6th. 


L.L. Bean

L.L. Bean faced a challenge of aligning its inclusivity values and desire for everyone to benefit from the restorative power of time outside with its ability to provide products for different body types.

Consumer research focused on the experiences of people of all body types, which led to deep internal inspiration and go to market relevance, resulting in improved customer belonging, increased sales with a broader size range, the development of a strategic growth plan and boosted employee morale.

As our judges shared, “at its core, this work had a very strong inclusive research application with great results of implementing more inclusive marketing and product offerings by considering perspectives and considerations of all customers.”

Ally Financial

Ally Financial recognized a gap in research involving people with disabilities and responded by implementing a new inclusive research process that integrates them into the design from the start. This collaboration has not only increased diversity and innovation, but also saved costs by addressing accessibility issues early.

Their Accessibility Usability Scale (AUS) score now exceeds industry standards, and their inclusive approach has had a positive impact across the organization, influencing design changes. As one member of the judging panel said, “fantastic all around. This is a clear and comprehensive approach, with great results from the AUS score being about the Fable benchmark.”


To better understand and measure if a pan-tumor patient brochure was inclusive and relevant to a diverse audience of cancer patients, Merck Keytruda leveraged mixed methodologies, including exploratory exercises and in-depth moderated interviews.

The team discovered that inclusive patient oncology resources should have diverse representation of people across age, race, culture, gender, ability, and more, including elements of patients’ lives outside of cancer care to humanize patient experiences. 

As one judge put it, “Merck Keytruda thought big about what constitutes an inclusive oncology resource by working directly with patients, employing a multi-method research approach. Well done!”


The Agility in Insight Award

For insights leaders enabling rapid decision making informed by the customer.

The Agility Award goes to a project or program that flexes with rapidly changing customer needs to enable rapid decision making aligned to customer outcomes. Check below for this year’s Agility finalists and Agility winner, announced daily starting November 13th. 



To help Visa’s clients better understand how and where people are spending globally, their Insights Team established a comprehensive and timely index that’s customizable and allows for unparalleled insights into target markets, enabling clients to discern spending patterns related to discretionary and non-discretionary spend. 

As one judge put it, “this newfound knowledge has empowered businesses to strategically allocate resources, enhance market positioning and foster more impactful brand engagement strategies, thereby bolstering their competitive edge in an increasingly dynamic and uncertain economic landscape.”


To monitor Starbucks’ brand equity in different markets across the world – each with their own culture, stakeholders and competitive differences – Starbucks launched One Brand Equity, which enables their insights team to align all brand equity studies, across all channels, and compare learnings from markets big and small. 

The result is a truly global project that scales to the worldwide market Starbucks plays in, driving overall corporate strategies, while still having the ability to zoom in to individual countries. This effort standardizes and democratizes insights for business leaders around the world for the first time in Starbucks history.

Boots is named Better Why Agility Award finalist


To bring sparkle (and a big jump in sales) to Boots for their Christmas experience and brand proposition, the insights team put their full stakeholder team at the heart of their consumer mindset – literally in the room with the shoppers – and heavily influenced a winning strategy within a tight timeframe.

As the judges said, “this insights program flexed to meet rapidly changing customer needs around a major holiday for Boots and delivered a profit-driven outcome within an exceedingly short timeframe.” 


The Future-Back Award

For insights leaders who stay ahead of the customer.

The Future Back Award goes to a project or program that uses foresight to get ahead of changing customer expectations. Check below for this year’s Future Back finalists and Future Back winner, announced daily starting November 27th. 



With the goal of destigmatizing topics that are often overlooked in women’s health, Bayer’s Consumer Health division decided with patients, caregivers and their healthcare providers to educate consumers and confront discomfort directly with the founding of the Vagina Academy and a campaign that helped grow the business by 8.4%.

According to our judges, “the most impressive result is the removal of TikTok’s censorship of the word ‘vagina’ in Brazil, and Facebook doing the same in Italy. That is impact.”


McCormick engaged employees in how customers experience flavor in an interactive “Flavor the Moment” event at its global headquarters. This unique approach that included documentary-style films, a tasting table and EEG headsets to see their brain “on flavor,” is helping inspire employees to create new flavor experiences in the future.

As one judge said of the entry, “McCormick’s proactive efforts in reshaping the discourse surrounding flavor not only highlight their industry leadership but also demonstrate their dedication to fostering a deep and meaningful connection between consumers and the art of flavor.”

Jaguar Land Rover named Better Why Future Back Award finalist

Jaguar Land Rover

As part of JLRs commitment to reimagining modern luxury through becoming a truly sustainable brand, JLR’s Insights Team set out to deeply understand business-wide stakeholder perspectives, emerging trends in sustainability both within automotive and in parallel  worlds and global market nuances. They brought in trailblazers and target customers from across the globe to guide their transformative journey, guiding the organization towards a strategic roadmap for establishing leadership in the sustainability domain.

“This is a solid example of a significant goal, business conflict and a thorough approach to collect customer feedback, keep stakeholders engaged and gain buy-in internally,” shared the judges in their review.


The Better Why Champion

For insights leaders who champion the customer as a true disruptive force for business.

The Better Why Champion Award recognizes an organization in which growth can be directly attributed to insights, customer experience or customer relationship design programs. Congratulations to this year’s winner!


The New Role of Insights

In an era of globalization, disruption and digitalization, where the biggest shifts are driven by what people expect of brands, companies need to learn to give as much as they seek to get.Explore the evolving insights landscape and what it takes to keep your customers at the center of your business in 2024 and beyond.


The Better Why LIVE: Celebrating Innovators in Insights!

The Better Why LIVE event for insights professionals

Our annual event is where the Better Why community comes together to celebrate this year’s Better Why Awards for insights teams at Microsoft, Boots, Merck, McDonald’s, Visa and more, plus hear first-hand from global insights leaders across industries about how they’re building always-on relationships with their customers in an expert panel hosted by Insights Association’s CEO, Melanie Courtright.

Check out the replay for the latest on:

  • The role of insights in elevating your brand’s value today and tomorrow
  • How to remain competitive by staying closer to your customers
  • How to combine brand performance and communication effectiveness to find opportunities to grow market share
  • How to broaden your customer base by amplifying the voices of underserved consumers through inclusive insights

Click below to watch the event!

Thank You to Our Judges!

This year’s prestigious judges, all previous Better Why Award winners, selected the 2023 lineup of winners based on their ability to generate insights that change the world of business, transforming customer insight into strategic advantage.

Kristi Gole 
EVP, Head of Strategy

Epiphany Espinosa
Director, Consumer & Content Insights 

Yuki Zhang
Senior Director, Product Management, Digital Medicine

Victoria Hayes
Director, Consumer Strategy