EA has the Gaming Industry's Crystal Ball
The Innovator: Jodie Antypas, VP, Consumer Insights & UX Research at EA (Electronic Arts)
Innovation Superpower: Closely monitoring consumer preferences and trends in order to bring more forward-looking insights to EA creative teams on both the product and marketing side.
You probably didn’t know that Jodie was a vegetarian for 6 years... until she ate bacon one night on a whim and never looked back.
Tell us about your current role and responsibilities. Why did you choose your current company?
I originally decided to join EA because at the time, I was in an insights role focused on marketing and campaigns. At EA, I knew I would be able to work on product and marketing insights, which is what I was looking for. I was tired of trying to give feedback to the product development team to no avail. Having now been at EA for 8 years, a more relevant question to answer is probably why I have stayed this long. It’s because I’ve been able to work in a variety of roles, giving me the opportunity to take on new responsibilities. More importantly, I’ve stayed because the passion that our players and our teams have for what we do is not something I’ve seen elsewhere.
Today, I lead EA’s consumer insights and user experience teams, a group of about 80 people that stretches across 10 of EA’s global locations. The work that we do impacts decisions across the full game ecosystem – from what games we should have in our portfolio, to attracting different types of players, to designing new features and measuring player satisfaction post-release.
Our user experience research team specifically focuses on providing player feedback on a game as it's being developed. We bring in players to test our games in development on a weekly basis, and their feedback goes directly to our development teams. On the marketing side we provide insights on product positioning, communication strategy and creative inspiration – anything that the teams need to understand to effectively bring the games to market.
What current developments in marketing are most inspiring to you? How will they affect the future of marketing?
I’m encouraged and excited by how creative and engaged our customers are today. Customers aren’t just partaking in campaigns, they are creating content and defining their own experiences. Younger consumers are growing up with creative tools at their disposal, they are more engaged civically, and they have higher expectations for products, brands and services. I am excited by the opportunity to create experiences for and with these consumers, but also curious to see how they will continue to transform marketing teams when they join the workforce.
What are you working on now that you think is innovative?
In the last year we kicked off what we call our Trends & Cultural Strategy program. The idea behind the program is to bring more forward-looking insights to our creative teams on both the product and marketing side. The consumer landscape is changing faster than ever and games do take a while to build, so while we aren’t trying to predict the future, we’re looking for early indicators of what’s on the consumer horizon so we can build these ideas into our game design and marketing plans. Games uniquely intersect tech, entertainment and culture, so we are fortunate in our industry that there are lots of ways to bring new content and experiences to life for our passionate players. This program is meant to inspire and enable new thinking and creativity.
Tell us about your career path and how you ended up where you are. What big learning moments have you had in your journey? Did you have any notable mentors?
I feel fortunate to have found my career path. I tried a few different directions right after college, including finance and sports management, until I accepted a job as a market research analyst after getting my MBA. I started my research career at an agency focusing on public health projects. While it was interesting intellectually, I wanted experience working in-house on a consumer brand. So I joined Nintendo just after the Wii launched, and from there I joined EA.
I’ve always sought roles that have allowed me to do things out of my comfort zone. I enjoy my job now because I get to blend two aspects of my personality - my curiousness and my analytical nature.
Some of my bigger learning moments have been when I stopped thinking about mistakes as failures, and learned not to be so hard on myself. I also received some really good feedback about speaking up more, which was surprising feedback for me to get as I’m not necessarily shy. I learned that I had to show up in a different way.
I’ve always had mentors, and have definitely sought advice and feedback throughout my professional journey. I had one mentor who really helped me find my voice and be heard beyond the data I was sharing. Another helped me focus less on delivering perfect research and more on my team’s impact on the organization. Mentors have helped me through various transitions throughout my career.
Tell us about your teams. How did you pick and develop the talent on your team? How do you ensure there is collaboration?
I am passionate about team building, culture, coaching and all aspects of the people side of work. When it comes to hiring, I think it’s helpful to be really specific about what you are looking for in a candidate and what you need from the role, and then make sure your interview process digs into those particular areas. Specific does not mean a huge laundry list of characteristics, though. I primarily look for strong critical thinkers with great communication skills because these are harder fundamental skills to teach. I can teach someone a methodology and get them up to speed on an industry, but if they can’t communicate well with others and think flexibly about challenging problems, then they aren’t going to work out on my team. Recruiting employees with these characteristics helps build a natural culture of collaboration.
What one thing do you need from your CMO to help you be successful?
Our CMO, Chris Bruzzo, creates an environment that allows me to be vulnerable on the job, which has been an important element in my growth over the past few years. It’s a squishy topic that not everyone is comfortable with, but if you are willing to go there, vulnerability is really empowering.
What advice would you give to marketers who are just starting their careers?
I’d encourage young marketers to try different paths, roles or industries until you find what you are truly interested in and passionate about. Make sure you are constantly learning and growing, don’t be afraid of feedback, and find an organizational culture where you can thrive.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I’m open to any and all possibilities. I would have never expected to find myself at one company for 8 years, so it’s hard to say. What’s most important to me is that I’m in a role where I’m challenged, learning and growing, having an impact and able to meet my family’s needs at that time. That leaves a lot of options open!
Favorite place to vacation? Greece. I have family there so we visit regularly. I love the warm sun and beautiful beaches, swimming in the Mediterranean, and yiayia’s cooking. It’s a place and culture where I can completely escape and relax.
If you were a superhero, what would your special skill be? I’d be a multilingual superhero so I could visit any country and speak the language fluently.
Name something that most people don’t know about you. I was a vegetarian for 6 years...until I ate bacon one night on a whim and never looked back.
If you weren’t a marketer, what would you be? I’d own a bakery, but not because I’m an amazing baker. I love visiting authentic bakeries when I travel internationally because they are great expressions of local culture and people. Plus, nobody’s ever unhappy in a bakery.
What’s the best thing you’ve read/listened to/watched recently? I’ve been into podcasts lately. Two of my favorites are How I Built This (NPR) and GirlBoss. I just listened to a great episode of Madison & Culture and downloaded a couple of episodes of 99% Invisible for an upcoming flight.